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n 



A THORNY PATH 



(PER ASPERA) 



BY 

GEORG EBERS 

AUTHOR OP UARDA, AN BCYPTIAN PRINCESS, SBRAPIS, JOSHUA, ETC. 
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN 

By CLARA BELL 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
VOL. II 



NEW YORK 
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 

1892 



^ZiJH]^ 




Copyright, 1892, 
By D. appleton AND COMPANY. 



Elbctrotyped and Printed 
AT THE Appleton Press, U. S. A. 



A THORNY PATH. 



CHAPTER XXIx '*\ 

\ * . » I 

The high-priest of Serapis presided over the sac- 
rifices to be offered this morning. Caesar had given 
beasts in abundance to do honor to the god ; still, the 
priest had gone but ill-disposed. ta*f^ll his part ; 
for the imperial command that tfie citizens' houses 
should be filled with the troops, who were also au- 
thorized to make unheard-of demands on their 
hosts, had roused his ire against the tyrant, who, in 
the morning, after his bath, had appeared to him 
unhappy indeed, but at the same time a gifted and 
conscientious ruler, capable of the highest and 
grandest enterprise. 

Melissa, in obedience to the lady Euryale, had 
taken an hour's rest, and then refreshed herself by 
bathing. She now was breakfasting with her ven- 
erated friend, and Philostratus had joined them. 
He was able to tell them that a swift State galley 
was already on its way to overtake and release her 
father and brother ; and when he saw how glad she 
was to hear it, how beautiful, fresh, and pure she 
was, he thought to himself with anxiety that it 
would be a wonder if th^ imperial slave to his own 
passions should not desire to possess this lovely 
creature. 

Euryale also feared this, and Melissa realized 



4 A THORNY PATH. 

what filled them with anxiety ; yet she by no means 
shared the feeling, and the happy confidence with 
which she tried to comfort her old friends, at the 
same time pacified and alarmed them. It seemed 
to her quite foolish and vain to suppose that the 
emperor, the mighty ruler of the world, should fall 
in love with her, the humble, obscure gem-cutter's 
child, who aspired to one suitor alone. It was 
merely as a patient wishes for the physician, she 
assured herself, that the emperor wished for her 
presence — Philostratus had understood that. Dur- 
ing the night she had certainly been seized with 
great fears, but, as she now thought, without any 
cause. What she really had to dread was that she 
might be falsely judged by his followers; still, she 
cared nothing about all these Romans. However, 
she would beg Euryale to see Diodoros, and to tell 
him what forced her to obey the emperor's sum- 
mons, if he should send for her. It was highly proba- 
ble that the sick man had been informed of her inter- 
view with Caracalla, and, as her betrothed, he must 
be told how she felt toward Caesar; for this was 
his right, and jealous agitation might injure him. 

Her face so expressed the hope and confidence 
of a pure heart that when, after a little time, she 
withdrew, Euryale said to the philosopher : 

" We must not alarm her more ! Her trustful 
innocence perhaps may protect her better than 
anxious precautions." 

And Philostratus agreed, and assured her that 
in any case he expected good results for Melissa, 
for she was one of those who were the elect of the 
gods and whom they chose to be their instruments. 
And then he related what wonderful influence she 
had over Caesar's sufferings, and praised her with 
his usual enthusiastic warmth. 



A THORNY PATH. 5 

When Melissa returned, Philostratus had left the 
matron. She was again alone with Euryale, who 
reminded her of the lesson conveyed in the Chris- 
tian words that she had explained to her yesterday. 
Every deed, every thought, had some influence on 
the way in which the fulfillment of time would come 
for each one ; and when the hour of death was 
over, no regrets, repentance, or efforts could then 
alter the past. A single moment, as her own young 
experience had taught her, was often sufficient to 
brand the name of an estimable man. Till now, 
her way through life had led along level paths, 
through meadows and gardens, and others had kept 
their eyes open for her ; now she was drawing near 
to the edge of a precipice, and at every turning, 
even at the smallest step, she must never forget the 
threatening danger. The best will and the great- 
est prudence could not save her if she did not trust 
to a higher guidance ; and then she asked the girl 
to whom she raised her heart when she prayed ; and 
Melissa named Isis and other gods, and lastly the 
manes of her dead mother. 

During this confession, old Adventus appeared, 
to summon the girl to his sovereign. Melissa 
promised to follow him immediately ; and, when the 
old man had gone, the matron said : 

" Few here pray to the same gods, and he whose 
worship my husband leads is not mine. I, with sev- 
eral pthers, know that there is a* Father in heaven 
who loves us men, his creatures, and guards us as 
his children. You do not yet know him, and there- 
fore you can not hope for anything from him; 
but if you will follow the advice of a friend, who 
was also once young, think in the future that your 
right hand is held firmly by the invisible, beloved 
hand of your mother. Persuade yourself that she 



6 A THORNY PATH. 

is by you, and take care that every word, yes, every 
glance, meets with her approval. Then she will be 
there, and will protect you whenever you require 
her aid." 

Melissa sank on the breast of her kind friend, 
embracing her as closely and kissing her as sincerely 
as if she had been the beloved mother to whose care 
Euryale had commended he^. 

The counsels of this true friend agreed with 
those of her own heart, and so they must be right. 

When at last they had to part, Euryale wished 
to send for one of the gentlemen of the court, 
whom she knew, that he might escort her through 
the troops of Caesar's attendants and friends who 
were waiting, and of the visitors and petitioners ; 
but Melissa felt so happy and so well protected by 
Adventus, that she followed him without further 
delay. In fact, the old man had a friendly feeling 
for her, since she had covered his feet so carefully 
the day before ; she knew it by the tone of his voice 
and by the troubled look in his dim eyes. 

Even now she did not believe in the dangers at 
which her friends trembled for her, and she walked 
calmly across the lofty marble halls, the anteroom, 
and the other vast rooms of the imperial dwelling. 
The attendants accompanied her respectfully from 
door to door, in obedience to the emperor's com- 
mands, and she went on with a firm step, looking 
straight in front of her, without noticing the inquisi- 
tive, approving, or scornful glances which were 
aimed at her. 

In the first rooms she needed an escort, for they 
were crowded with Romans and Alexandrians who 
were waiting for a sign from Caesar to appeal for 
his pardon or his verdict, or perhaps only wishing 
to see his countenance. The emperor's "friends" 



A THORNY PATH. 7 

sat at breakfast, of which Caracalla did not par- 
take. The generals, and the members of his court 
not immediately attached to his person, stood to- 
gether in the various rooms, while the principal 
people of Alexandria — several senators and rich 
and important citizens of the town — as well as the 
envoys of the Egyptian provinces, in magnificent 
garments and rich gold ornaments, held aloof from 
the Romans, and waited in groups for the call of 
the usher. 

Melissa saw no one, nor did she observe the 
costly woven hangings on the walls, the friezes dec- 
orated with rare works of art and high reliefs, nor 
the mosaic floors over which she passed. She did 
not notice the hum and murmur of the numerous 
voices which surrounded her ; nor could she indeed 
have understood a single coherent sentence ; for, 
excepting the ushers and the emperor's immediate 
attendants, at the reception-hour no one was al- 
lowed to raise his voice. Expectancy and servility 
seemed here to stifle every lively impulse; and 
when, now and then, the loud call of one of the 
ushers rang above the murmur, one of those who 
were waiting spontaneously bowed low, or another 
started up, as if ready to obey any command. The 
sensation, shared by many, of waiting in the vicinity 
of a high, almost godlike power, in whose hands 
lay their well-being or misery, gave rise to a sense 
of solemnity. Every movement was subdued ; anx- 
ious, nay, fearful expectation was written on many 
faces, and on others impatience and disappointment. 
After a little while it was whispered from ear to ear 
that the emperor would only grant a few more audi- 
ences ; and how many had already waited in vain 
yesterday, for hours, in the same place ! 

Without delay Melissa went on till she had 



8 A THORNY PATH. 

reached the heavy curtain which, as she already 
knew, shut off Caesar's inner apartments. 

The usher obligingly drew it back, even before 
she had mentioned her name, and while a deputa- 
tion of the town senators, who had been received 
by Caracalla, passed out, she was followed by 
Alexandrian citizens, the chiefs of great merchant- 
houses, whose request for an audience he had sanc- 
tioned. They were for the most part elderly men, 
and Melissa recognized among them Seleukus, Be- 
renike's husband. 

Melissa bowed to him, but he did not notice her, 
and passed by without a word. Perhaps he was 
considering the enormous sum to be expended on 
the show at night which he, with a few friends, in- 
tended to arrange at the circus in Caesar's honor. 

All was quite still in the large hall which sepa- 
rated the emperor's reception-room from the ante- 
room. Melissa observed only two soldiers, who 
were looking out of window, and whose bodies 
were shaking as though they were convulsed with 
profound merriment. 

It happened that she had to wait here some 
time; for the usher begged her to have patience 
until the merchants' audience was over. They were 
the last who would be received that day. He in- 
vited her to rest on the couch on which was spread 
a bright giraffe's skin, but she preferred to walk up 
and down, for her heart was beating violently. 
While the usher vanished from the room, one of 
the warriors turned his head to look about him, and 
directly he caught sight of Melissa he gave his 
comrade a push, and said to him, loud enough for 
Melissa to hear : 

" A wonder ! Apollonaris, by Eros and all the 
Erotes, a precious wonder ! " 



A THORNY PATH. g 

The next moment they both stepped back from 
the window and stared at the girl, who stood 
blushing and embarrassed, and gazed at the floor 
when she found with whom she had been left alone. 

They were two tribunes of the praetorians, but, 
notwithstanding their high grade, they were only 
young men of about twenty. Twin brothers of the 
honorable house of the Aurelia, they had entered 
the army as centurions, but had soon been placed 
at the head of a thousand men, and appointed trib- 
unes in Caesar's body-guard. They resembled one 
another exactly ; and this likeness, which procured 
them much amusement, they greatly enhanced by 
arranging their coal-black beards and hair in ex- 
actly the same way, and by dressing alike down to 
the rings on their fingers. One was called Apol- 
lonaris, the other Nemesianus Aurelius. They were 
of the same height, and equally well groMrn, and no 
one could say which had the finest black eyes, 
which mouth the haughtiest smile, or to which of 
them the thick short beard and the artistically 
shaved spot between the under lip and chin was 
most becoming. The beautifully embossed orna- 
ments on their breast-plates and shirts oi mail, and 
on the belt of the short sword, showed that they 
grudged no expense ; in fact, they thought only of 
enjoyment, and it was merely for the honor of it 
that they were serving for a few years in the impe- 
rial guard. By and by they would rest, after all the 
hardships of the campaign, in their p)alace at Rome, 
or in the villas on the various estates that they had 
inherited from their father and mother, and then, for 
a change, hold honorary positions in the public serv- 
ice. Their friends knew that they also contemplated 
being married on the same day, when the game of 
war should be a thing of the past. 



lO A THORNY PATH. 

In the mean time they desired nothing in the 
world but honor and pleasure; and such pleasure 
as well-bred, healthy, and genial youths, with ami- 
ability, strength, and money to spend, can always 
command, they enjoyed to the full, without carry- 
ing it to reckless extravagance. Two merrier, hap- 
pier, more popular comrades probably did not 
exist in the whole army. They did their duty in 
the field bravely ; during peace, and in a town like 
Alexandria, they appeared, on the contrary, like 
mere effeminate men of fashion. At least, they 
spent a large part of their time in having their 
black hair crimped ; they gave ridiculous sums to 
have it anointed with the most delicate perfumes ; 
and it was difficult to imagine how effectively their 
carefully kept hands could draw a sword, and, if 
necessary, handle the hatchet or spade. 

To-day. Nemesianus was in the emperor's ante- 
room by command, and Apollonaris, of his own free- 
will, had taken the place of another tribune, that he 
might bear his brother company. They had ca- 
roused through half the night, and had begun the 
new day by a visit to the flower market, for love of 
the pretty saleswomen. Each had a half-opened 
rose stuck in between his cuirass and shirt of mail 
on the left breast, plucked, as the charming Daphnion 
had assured them, from a bush which had been in- 
troduced from Persia only the year before. The 
brothers, at any rate, had never seen any like them. 

While they were looking out of the window they 
had passed the time by examining every girl or 
woman who went by, intending to fling one rose at 
the first whose perfect beauty should claim it, and 
the other flower at the second ; but during the half- 
hour none had appeared who was worthy of such 
a gift. All the beauties in Alexandria were walk- 



A THORNY PATH. u 

ing in the streets in the cool hour before sunset, 
and really there was no lack of handsome girls. 
The brothers had even heard that Caesar, who 
seemed to have renounced the pleasures of love, 
had yielded to the charms of a lovely Greek. 

Directly they saw Melissa they were convinced 
that they had met the beautiful plaything of the 
imperial fancy, and each with the same action 
offered her his rose, as if moved by the same in- 
visible power. 

Apollonaris, who had come into the world a lit- 
tle sooner than his brother, and who, by right of 
birth, had therefore a more audacious manner, 
stepped boldly up to Melissa and presented his, 
while Nemesianus at the same instant bowed to her, 
and begged her to give his the preference. 

Though their speeches were flattering and well- 
worded, Melissa repulsed them by remarking sharp- 
ly that she did not want their flowers. 

"We can easily believe that," answered Apol- 
lonaris, "for are you not yourself a lovely, blooming 
rose ? " 

" Vain flattery," replied Melissa ; " and I certain- 
ly do not bloom for you." 

" That is both cruel and unjust," sighed Neme- 
sianus, " for that which you refuse to us poor fel- 
lows you grant to another, who can obtain every- 
thing that other mortals yearn for." 

" But we," interrupted his brother, " are modest, 
nay, and pious warriors. We had intended offering 
up these roses to Aphrodite, but lo ! the goddess has 
met us in person." 

" Her image at any rate," added the other. 

" And you should thank the foam-born goddess," 
continued Apollonaris; "for she has lent you, in 
spite of the danger of seeing herself eclipsed, her 



12 A THORNY PATH. 

own divine charms. Do you think she will be dis- 
pleased if we withdraw the flowers and offer them to 
you ? " 

" I think nothing," answered Melissa, " except- 
ing that your honeyed remarks annoy me. Do 
what you like with your roses, I will not accept 
them." 

"How dare you," asked ApoUonaris, approach- 
ing her — "you, to whom the mother of love has 
given such wonderfully fresh lips — misuse them 
by refusing so sternly the humble petition of her 
faithful worshipers ? If you would not have Aphro- 
dite enraged with you, hasten to atone for this 
transgression. One kiss, my beauty, for her votary, 
and she will forgive you." 

Here ApoUonaris stretched out his hand toward 
the girl to draw her to him, but she motioned him 
back indignantly, declaring that it would be repre- 
hensible and cowardly in a soldier to use violence 
toward a modest maid. 

At this the two brothers laughed heartily, and 
Nemesianus exclaimed, " You do not belong to the 
Temple of Vesta, most lovely of roses, and yet you 
are well protected by such sharp thorns that it re- 
quires a great deal of courage to venture to attack 
you." 

" More," added ApoUonaris, " than to storm a 
fortress. But what camp or stronghold contains 
booty so well worth capturing ? " 

Thereupon he threw his arm round Melissa and 
drew her to him. 

Neither he nor his brother had ever conducted 
themselves badly towards an honorable woman; 
and if Melissa had been but the daughter of a sim- 
ple craftsman, her reproachful remarks would have 
sufficed to keep them at a distance. But such im- 



A THORNY PATH. 



13 



munity was not to be granted to the emperor's 
sweetheart, who could so audaciously reject two 
brothers accustomed to easy conquests; her de- 
mure severity could hardly be meant seriously. 
Apollonaris therefore took no notice of her violent 
resistance, but held her hands forcibly, and, though 
he could not succeed in kissing her for her strug- 
gling, he pressed his lips to her cheek, while she 
endeavored to free herself and pushed him off, 
breathless with real indignation. 

Till now, thebrothers had taken the matter as 
a joke ; but when Apollonaris seized the girl again, 
and she, beside herself with fear, cried for help, he 
at once set her free. 

It was too late ; for the curtains of the audi- 
ence-room were already withdrawn, and Caracalla 
approached. His countenance was red and dis- 
torted ; he trembled with rage, and his angry glance 
fell like a flash of lightning on the luckless broth- 
ers. Close by his side was the prefect Macrinus, 
who feared lest he should be attacked by a fresh 
fit ; and Melissa shared his fears, as Caracalla cried 
to Apollonaris in an angry voice, " Scoundrel that 
you are, you shall repent of this ! " 

Still, Aurelius had, by various wanton jokes, in- 
curred the emperor's wrath before now, and he was 
accustomed to disarm it by some insinuating con- 
fession, so he answered him with a roguish smile, 
while raising his eyes to him humbly : 

" Forgive me, great Caesar ! Our poor strength, 
as you well know, is easily defeated in conflicts 
against overpowering beauty. Dainties are sweet, 
not only for children. Long ago Mars was drawn 
to Venus ; and if I — " 

He had spoken these words in Latin, which Me- 
lissa did not understand ; but the color left the em- 



14 A THORNY PATH. 

peror's face, and, pale with excitement, he stam- 
mered out laboriously : 

" You have — you have dared — *' 

" For this rose," began the youth again, " I 
begged a hasty kiss from the beauty, which certain- 
ly blooms for all, and she — " He raised his hands 
and eyes imploringly to the despot ; but Caracalla 
had already snatched Macrinus's sword from its 
sheath, and before Aurelius could defend himself 
he was struck first on the head with the flat of the 
blade, and then received a series of sharp cuts on 
his brow and face. 

Streaming with blood from the gaping wounds 
which the victim, trembling with fear and rage, cov- 
ered with his hands, he surrendered himself to the 
care of his startled brother, while Caesar over- 
whelmed them both with a flood of furious re- 
proaches. 

When Nemesianus began to bind up his wounded 
brother's head with a handkerchief handed to him 
by Melissa, and Caracalla saw the gaping wounds 
he had inflicted, he became quieter, and said : 

" I think those lips will not try to steal kisses 
again for some time from honorable maidens. You 
and Nemesianus have forfeited your lives; how- 
ever, the beseeching look of those all-powerful 
eyes has saved you — you are spared. Take your 
brother away, Nemesianus. You are not to leave 
your quarters until further orders." 

With this he turned his back on the twins, but 
on the threshold he again addressed them and 
said: 

" You were mistaken about this maiden. She is 
not less pure and noble than your own sister." 

The merchants were dismissed from the tab- 
linum more hastily than was due to the importance 



A THORNY PATH. 



15 



of their business, in which, until this interruption, 
the sovereign had shown a sympathetic interest 
and intelligence which surprised them; and they 
left Caesar's presence disappointed, but with the 
promise that they should be received again in the 
evening. 

As soon as they had retired, Caracalla threw 
himself again on the couch. 

The bath had done him good. Still somewhat 
exhausted, though his head was clear, he would not 
be hindered from receiving the deputation for which 
he had important matters to decide ; but this fresh 
attack of rage revenged itself by a painful head- 
ache. Pale, and with slightly quivering limbs, he 
dismissed the prefect and his other friends, and de- 
sired Epagathos to call Melissa. 

He needed rest, and again the girl's little hand, 
which had yesterday done him good, proved its 
healing power. The throbbing in his head yielded 
to her gentle touch, and by degrees exhaustion 
gave way to the comfortable languor of convales- 
ence. 

To-day, as yesterday, he expressed his thanks 
to Melissa, but he found her changed. She looked 
timidly and anxiously down into her lap excepting 
when she replied to a direct question ; and yet he 
had done everything to please her. Her relations 
would soon be free and in Alexandria once more, 
and Zminis was in prison, chained hand and foot. 
This he told her ; and, though she was glad, it was 
not enough to restore the calm cheerfulness he had 
Ipved to see in her. 

He urged her, with warm insistence, to tell him 
what it was that weighed on her, and at last, with 
eyes full of tears, she forced herself to say : 

" You yourself have seen what they take me for.'* 



l6 A THORNY PATH. 

"And you have seen," he quickly replied, "how 
I punish those who forget the respect they owe to 
you." 

" But you are so dreadful in your wrath ! " The 
words broke from her lips. " Where others blame, 
you can destroy ; and you do it, too, when passion 
carries you away. I am bound to obey your call, 
and here I am. But I fancy myself like the little 
dog — you may see him any day — which in the beast- 
garden of the Panaeum, shares a cage with a royal 
tiger. The huge brute puts up with a great deal 
from his small companion, but woe betide the dog 
if the tiger once pats him with his heavy, murder- 
ous paw — and he might, out of sheer forgetful- 
ness ! " 

" But this hand," Caesar broke in, raising his 
delicate hand covered with rings, "will never for- 
get, any more than my heart, how much it owes to 
you." 

" Until I, in some unforeseen way — perhaps quite 
unconsciously — excite your anger," sighed Melissa. 
" Then you will be carried away by passion, and I 
shall share the common fate." 

Caracalla was about to reply indignantly, but 
just then Advi^ntus entered the room, announcing 
the chief astrologer of the Temple of Serapis. Ca- 
racalla refused to receive him just then, but he 
anxiously asked whether he had any signs to re- 
port. The reply was in the affirmative, and in a 
few minutes Caesar had in his hand a wax tablet 
covered with words and figures. He studied it 
eagerly, and his countenance cleared ; still holding 
the tablets, he exclaimed to Melissa : 

" You, daughter of Heron, have nothing to fear 
from me, you of all the world ! In some quiet hour 
I will explain to you how my planet yearns to yours, 



A THORNY PATH. 



17 



and yours — that is, yourself — to mine. The gods 
have created us for each other, child ; I am already 
under your influence, but your heart still hesitates, 
and I know why ; it is because you distrust me." 

Melissa raised her large eyes to his face in as- 
tonishment, and he went on, pensively : 

" The past must stand ; it is like a scar which no 
water will wash out. What have you not heard of 
my past ? What did they feel, in their self-conscious 
virtue, when they talked of my crimes ? Did it ever 
occur to any one, I wonder, that with the purple I 
assumed the sword, to protect my empire and 
throne? And when I have used the blade, how 
eagerly have fingers pointed at me, how gladly 
slanderous tongues have wagged ! Who has ever 
thought of asking what compulsion led me to shed 
blood, or how much it cost me to do it ? You, fair 
child — and the stars confirm it — you were sent by 
Fate to share the burden that oppresses me, and to 
you I will ease my heart, to you I will confide all, 
unasked, because my heart prompts me to do so. 
But first you must tell me with what tales they 
taught you to hate the man to whom, as you your- 
self confessed, you nevertheless felt drawn." 

At this Melissa raised her hands in entreaty and 
remonstrance, and Caesar went on : 

" I will spare you the pains. They say that I 
am ever athirst for fresh bloodshed if only some 
one is rash enough to suggest it to me. You were 
told that Caesar murdered his brother Geta, with 
many more who did but speak his victim's name. 
My father-in-law, and his daughter Plautilla, my 
wife, were, it is said, the victims of my fury. I 
killed Papinian, the lawyer and prefect, and Cilo — 
whom you saw yesterday — nearly shared the same 
fate. What did they conceal? Nothing! Your 

26 



1 8 A THORNY PATH. 

nod confesses it — well, and why should they, since 
speaking ill of others is their greatest delight ? It 
is all true, and I should never think of denying it. 
But did it ever occur to you, or did any one ever 
suggest to you, to inquire how it came to pass that 
I perpetrated such horrors; I — who was brought 
up in the fear of the gods and the law, like you and 
other people ? " 

" No, my lord, never,*' replied Melissa, in distress. 
" But I beg you, I beseech you, say no more about 
such dreadful things. I know full well that you 
are not wicked ; that you are much better than peo- 
ple think." 

" And for that very reason," cried Caesar, whose 
cheeks were flushed with pleasure in the hard task 
he had set himself, " you must hear me. I am Caesar. 
There is no judge over me; I need give account to 
none for my actions. Nor do I. Who, besides your- 
self, is more to me than the flies on that cup ? " 

" And your conscience ? " she timidly put in. 

" It raises hideous questions from time to time," 
he replied, gloomily. " It can be obtrusive, but we 
can teach ourselves not to answer — besides, what 
you call conscience knows the motives for every 
action, and, remembering them, judges leniently. 
You, child, should do the same ; for you — " 

" O my lord, what can my poor judgment mat- 
ter ? " Melissa panted out ; but Caracalla exclaimed, 
as if the question pained him : 

" Must I explain all that ? The stars, as you 
know, proclaim to you, as to me, that a higher pow- 
er has joined us as light and warmth are joined. 
Have you forgotten how we both felt only yester- 
day ? Or am I mistaken ? Has not Roxana's soul 
entered into that divinely lovely form because it 
longed for its lost companion spirit ? " 



A THORNY PATH. 



19 



He spoke vehemently, with a quivering of his 
eyelids; but feeling her hand tremble in his own, 
he collected himself, and went on in a lower tone, 
but with urgent emphasis : 

" I will let you glance into this bosom, closed to 
every other eye ; for my desolate heart is inspired 
by you to fresh energy and life ; I am as grateful 
to you as a drowning man to his deliverer. I shall 
suffocate and die if I repress the impulse to open 
my heart to you ! " 

What change was this that had come over this 
mysterious being ? Melissa felt as though she was 
gazing on the face of a stranger, for, though his eye- 
lids still quivered, his eyes were bright with ecstatic 
fire and his features looked more youthful. On 
that noble brow the laurel wreath he wore looked 
well. Also, as she now observed, he was magnifi- 
cently attired; he wore a close-fitting tunic, or 
breast-plate made of thick woolen stuff, and over it 
a purple mantle, while from his bare throat hung a 
precious medallion, shield-shaped, and set in gold 
and gems, the center formed by a large head of Me- 
dusa, with beautiful though terrible features. The 
lion-heads of gold attached to each corner of the 
short cloak he wore over the sham coat of mail, 
were exquisite works of art, and sandals embroid- 
ered with gold and gems covered his feet and an- 
kles. He was dressed to-day like the heir of a lord- 
ly house, anxious to charm ; nay, indeed, like an 
emperor, as he was ; and with what care had his 
body-slave arranged his thin curls ! 

He passed his hand over his brow and cast a 
glance at a silver mirror on the low table at the 
head of his couch. When he turned to her again 
his amorous eyes met Melissa's. 

She looked down in startled alarm. Was it for 



20 A THORNY PATH. 

her sake that Caesar had thus decked himself and 
looked in the mirror ? It seemed scarcely possible, 
and yet it flattered and pleased her. But in the 
next instant she longed more fervently than she 
ever had before for a magic charm by which she 
might vanish and be borne far, far away from this 
dreadful man. In fancy she saw the vessel which 
the lady Berenike had in readiness. She would, she 
must fly hence, even if it should part her for a time 
from Diodoros. 

Did Caracalla read her thought ? Nay, he could 
not see through her ; so she endured his gaze, tempt- 
ing him to speak ; and his heart beat high with hope 
as he fancied he saw that she was beginning to be 
affected by his intense agitation. At this moment he 
felt convinced, as he often had been, that the most 
atrocious of his crimes had been necessary and 
inevitable. There was something grand and vast 
in his deeds of blood, and that — for he flattered 
himself he knew the female heart — must win her 
admiration, besides the awe and love she already 
felt. 

During the night, at his waking, and in his bath, 
he had felt that she was as necessary to him as the 
breath of life and hope. What he experienced was 
love as the poets had sung it. How often had he 
laughed it to scorn, and boasted that he was armed 
against the arrows of Eros ! Now, for the first time, 
he was aware of the anxious rapture, the ardent 
longing of which he had read in so many songs. 
There stood the object of his passion. She must 
hear him, must be his — not by compulsion, not by 
imperial command, but of the free impulse of her 
heart. 

His confession would help to this end. 

With a swift gesture, as if to throw off the last 



A THORNY PATH. 2 1 

trace of fatigue, he sat up and began in a firm voice, 
with a light in his eyes : 

" Yes, I killed my brother Geta. You shudder. 
And yet, if at this day, when I know all the results 
of the deed, the state of affairs were the same as 
then, I would do it again ! That shocks you. But 
only listen, and then you will say with me that it 
was Fate which compelled me to act so, and not 
otherwise." 

He paused, and then mistaking the anxiety which 
was visible in Melissa's face for sympathetic atten- 
tion, he began his story, confident of her interest : 

" When I was born, my father had not yet assumed 
the purple, but he already aimed at the sovereignty. 
Augury had promised it to him ; my mother knew 
this, and shared his ambition. While I was still at 
my nurse's breast he was made consul ; four years 
later he seized the throne. Pertinax was killed, the 
wretched Didius Julianus bought the empire, and 
this brought my father to Rome from Pannonia. 
Meanwhile he had sent us children, my brother Geta 
and me, away from the city ; nor was it till he had 
quelled the last resistance on the Tiber that he re- 
called us. 

" I was then but a child of five, and yet one day 
of that time I remember vividly. My father was 
going through Rome in solemn procession. His 
first object was to do due honor to the corpse of 
Pertinax. Rich hangings floated from every window 
and balcony in the city. Garlands of flowers and 
laurel wreaths adorned the houses, and pleasant 
odors were wafted to us as we went. The jubila- 
tion of the people was mixed with the trumpet-call 
of the soldiers ; handkerchiefs were waved and accla- 
mations rang out. This was in honor of my father, 
and of me also, the future Caesar. My little heart 



22 A THORNY PATH. 

was almost bursting with pride; it seemed to me 
that I had grown several heads taller, not only than 
other boys, but than the people that surrounded 
me. 

" When the funeral procession began, my mother 
wished me to go with her into the arcade where 
seats had been placed for the ladies to view, but I 
refused to follow her. My father became angry. 
But when he heard me declare that I was a man 
and the future Emperor, that I would rather see 
nothing than show myself to the people among the 
women, he smiled. He ordered Cilo, who was then 
the prefect of Rome, to lead me to the seats of the 
past consuls and the old senators. I was delighted 
at this ; but when he allowed my younger brother 
Geta to follow me, my pleasure was entirely 
spoiled." 

"And you were then five years old ?" asked Me- 
lissa, astonished. 

" That surprises you ! '* smiled Caracalla. " But 
I had already traveled through half the empire, and 
had experienced more than other boys of twice my 
age. I was, at any rate, still child enough to forget 
everything else in the brilliant spectacle that un- 
folded before my eyes. I remember to this day the 
colored wax statue which represented Pertinax so 
exactly that it might have been himself risen from 
the grave. And the procession ! It seemed to have 
no end; one new thing followed another. All 
walked past in mourning robes, even the choir of 
singing boys and men. Cilo explained to me who 
had made the statues of the Romans who had served 
their country, who the artists and scholars were, 
whose statues and busts were carried by. Then came 
bronze groups of the people of every nation in the 
empire, in their costumes. Cilo told me what they 



A THORNY PATH. 



23 



were called, and where they lived ; he then added 
that one day they would all belong to me; that I 
must learn the art of fighting, in case they resisted 
me, and should require suppressing. Also, when 
they carried the flags of the guilds past, when the 
horse and foot soldiers, the race-horses from the 
circus and several other things came by, he contin- 
ued to explain them. I only remember it now be- 
cause it made me so happy. The old man spoke to 
me alone ; he regarded me alone as the future sov- 
ereign. He left Geta to eat the sweets which his 
aunts had given him, and when I too wanted some 
my brother refused to let me have any. Then Cilo 
stroked my hair, and said : ^ Leave him his toys. 
When you are a man you shall have the whole Ro- 
men Empire for your own, and all the nations I 
told you of.' Geta meanwhile had thought better 
of it, and pushed some of the sweetmeats toward me. 
I would not have them, and, when he tried to make 
me take them, I threw them into the road." 

" And you remember all that ? " said Melissa. 

" More things than these are indelibly stamped 
on my mind from that day," said Caesar. " I can see 
before me now the pile on which Pertinax was to be 
burned. It was splendidly decorated, and on the 
top stood the gilt chariot in which he had loved to 
ride. Before the consuls fired the logs of Indian 
wood, my father led us to the image of Pertinax, 
that we might kiss it. He held me by the hand. 
Wherever we went, the senate and people hailed us 
with acclamations. My mother carrried Geta in her 
arms. This delighted the populace. They shouted 
for her and my brother as enthusiastically as for 
us, and I recollect to this day how that went to my 
heart. He might have the sweets and welcome, but 
what the people had to offer was due only to my 



24 



A THORNY PATH. 



father and me, not to my brother. At that moment 
I first fully understood that Severus was the pres- 
ent and I the future Caesar. Geta had only to obey, 
like every one else. 

" After kissing the image, I stood, still holding 
my father's hand, to watch the flames. I can see 
them now, crackling and writhing as they gained on 
the wood, licking it and fawning, as it were, till it 
caught and sent up a rush of sparks and fire. At 
last the whole pile was one huge blaze. Then, sud- 
denly, out of the heart of the flames an eagle rose. 
The creature flapped its broad wings in the air, 
which was golden with sunshine and quivering with 
heat, soaring above the smoke and fire, this way 
and that. But it soon took flight, away from the 
furnace beneath. I shouted with delight, and cried 
to my father : * Look at the bird ! Where is he fly- 
ing?' And he eagerly answered : * Well done! If 
you desire to preserve the power I have conquered 
for you always undiminished, you must keep your 
eyes open. Let no sign pass unnoticed, no oppor- 
tunity neglected.* 

"He himself acted on this rule. To him ob- 
stacles existed only to be removed, and he taught 
me, too, to give myself neither peace nor rest, and 
not to spare the life of a foe. — That festival secured 
my father the suffrages of the Romans. Meanwhile 
Pescennius Niger rose up in the East with a large 
army and took the field against Severus. But my 
father was not the man to hesitate. Within a few 
months of the obsequies of Pertinax his opponent 
was a headless corpse. 

" There was yet another obstacle to be removed. 
You have heard of Clodius Albinus. My father 
had adopted him and raised him to share his throne. 
But Severus could not divide the rule with any man. 



A THORNY PATH. 25 

When I was nine years old I saw, after the battle of 
Lugdunum, the dead face of Albinus's head ; it was 
set up in front of the Curia on a lance. 

" I now was the second personage in the empire, 
next to my father ; the first among the youth of the 
whole world, and the future emperor. When I was 
eleven the soldiers hailed me as Augustus ; that was 
in the war against the Parthians, before Ktesiphon. 
But they did the same to Geta. This was like 
wormwood in the sweet draught; and if then — 
But what can a girl care about the state, and the 
fate of rulers and nations ? " 

"Yes, go on," said Melissa. "I see already 
what you are coming to. You disliked the idea of 
sharing your power with another." 

" Nay," cried Caracalla, vehemently, " I not only 
disliked it, it was intolerable, impossible ! What I 
want you to see is that I did not grudge my brother 
his share of my father's inheritance, like any petty 
trader. The world — that is the point — the world 
itself was too small for two of us. It was not I, 
but Fate, which had doomed Geta to die. I am 
certain of this, and so must you be. Yes, it was 
Fate. Fate prompted the child's little hand to at- 
tempt its brother's life. And that was long before 
my brain could form a thought or my baby-lips 
could stammer his hated name." 

"Then you tried to kill your brother even in 
infancy ? " asked Melissa, and her large eyes dilated 
with horror as she gazed at the terrible narrator. 
But Caracalla went on, in an apologetic tone : 

" I was then but two years old. It was at Me- 
diolanum, soon after Geta's ^birth. An egg was 
found in the court of the palace ; a hen had laid it 
close to a pillar. It was of a purple hue — red all 
over like the imperial mantle, and this indicated 



26 A THORNY PATH. 

that the newly born infant was destined to sover- 
eignty. Great was the rejoicing. The purple mar- 
vel was shown even to me who could but just walk. 
I, like a naughty boy, flung it down; the shell 
cracked, and the contents poured out on the pave- 
ment. My mother saw it, and her exclamation, 
* Wicked child, you have murdered your brother ! ' 
was often repeated to me in after-years. It never 
struck me as particularly motherly/' 

Here he paused, gazing meditatively into va- 
cancy, and then asked the girl, who had listened in- 
tently : 

" Were you never haunted by a word so that you 
could not be rid of it ?" 

" Oh, yes,'* cried Melissa ; " a striking rhythm in 
a song, or a line of poetry — " 

Caracalla nodded agreement, and went on more 
vehemently: "That is what I experienced at the 
words, * You have murdered your brother ! * I not 
only heard them now and then with my inward ear, 
but incessantly, like the dreary hum of the flies in 
my camp-tent, for hours at a time, by day and by 
night. No fanning could drive these away. The 
diabolical voice whispered loudest when Geta had 
done anything to vex me; or if things had been 
given him which I did not wish him to have. And 
how often Ihat happened ! For I — I was only Bas- 
sianus to my mother ; but her youngest was her dear 
little Geta. 

" So the years passed. We had, while still quite 
young, our own teams in the circus. One day, 
when we were driving for a wager — we were still 
boys, and I was ahead of the other lads — the horses 
of my chariot shied to one side. I was thrown 
some distance on the course. Geta saw this. He 
turned his horses to the right where I lay. He 



A THORNY PATH. 



27 



drove over his brother as he would over straw and 
apple-parings in the dust ; and his wheel broke my 
thigh. Who knows what else it crushed in me ? 
One thing is certain — from that date the most pain- 
ful of my sufferings originated. And he, the mean 
scoundrel, had done it intentionally. He had sharp 
eyes. He knew how to guide his steeds. He had 
never driven his wheel over a hazel-nut in the sand 
of the arena against his will ; and 1 was lying some 
distance from the driving course." 

Caesar's eyelids blinked spasmodically as he ut- 
tered this accusation, and his very glance revealed 
the raging fire that was burning in his soul. 

Melissa's sad cry of — 

" What terrible suspicion ! " he answered with a 
short, scornful laugh and the furious assertion: 

" Oh, there were friends enough who informed me 
what hope Geta had founded on this act of treach- 
ery. The disappointment made him irritable and 
listless, when Galenus had succeeded in curing me 
so far that I was able to throw away my crutch ; 
and my limp — at least so they tell me — is hardly 
perceptible." 

" Not at all, most certainly not at all," Melissa 
sympathetically assured him. He, however, went 
on: 

"Yet what I endured meanwhile! — and while I 
passed so many long weeks of pain and impatience 
on a couch, the words my mother had said about 
the brother whom I murdered rang constantly in 
my ears as though a reciter were engaged by day 
and night to reiterate them. 

"But even this passed away. With the pain, 
which had spoiled many good hours for me, the 
quiet had brought me something more to the pur- 
pose — thoughts and plans. Yes, during those 



28 A THORNY PATH. 

peaceful weeks the things my father and tutor 
had taught me became clear and real for the first 
time. I realized that I must become energetic if 
I meant ever to be a thorough sovereign. As soon 
as I could use my foot again I became an industri- 
ous and docile pupil under Cilo. From a child up 
to the time of this cruel experience, my youthful 
heart had clung to my nurse. She was a Chris- 
tian from my father's African home — I knew she 
loved me best on earth. My mother knew of no 
higher destiny than that of being the Domna, * the 
lady of the soldiers, the mother of the camp, and 
the lady philosopher among the sages. What she 
gave me in the way of love was but copper alms. 
She threw golden solidi of love into Geta's lap in 
lavish abundance. And her sister and her nieces, 
who often lived with us, treated me exactly as she 
did. They were distantly civil, or they shunned 
me ; but my brother was their spoiled plaything. I 
was as incapable as Geta was master of the art of 
stealing hearts ; but in my childhood I needed none 
of them : for, if I wished for a kind word, a sweet 
kiss, or the love of a woman, my nurse's arms were 
open to me. Nor was she an ordinary woman. As 
the widow of a tribune who had fallen in my father's 
service, she had undertaken to attend on me. She 
loved me as no one else ever did. She was also the 
only person whom I would willingly obey. I came 
into the world full of wild instincts, but she knew 
how to tame them kindly. My aversion to my 
brother was the one thing she checked but feebly, 
for he was a thorn in her side too. I learned this 
when she, who was so gentle, explained to me, with 



* Domina, lady or mistress, in corrupt Latin. Hence her 
name of Julia Domna. 



A THORNY PATH. 



29 



asperity in her tone, that there was but one God in 
heaven, and on earth but one emperor, who should 
govern the world in his name. She also imparted 
these convictions to others, and this turned to her 
disadvantage. My mother parted us, and sent her 
back to her African home. She died soon after." 

He was silent, and gazed pensively into vacancy; 
soon, however, he collected his thoughts and said, 
lightly : 

" Well, I became Gilo's diligent pupil." 

" But," asked Melissa, " did you not say that at 
one time you attempted his life? " 

"I did so," replied Garacalla darkly; "for a 
moment arrived when I cursed his teaching, and 
yet it was certainly wise and well meant. You see, 
child, all of you who go through life humbly and 
without power are trained to submit obediently to 
the will of Heaven. Gilo taught me to place my 
own power, and the greatness of the realm which it 
would be incumbent on me to reign over, above 
everything, even above the gods. It was impressed 
upon you and yours to hold the life of another 
sacred ; to us, our duty as the sovereign transcends 
this law. Even the blood of a brother must flow if 
it is for the good of the state intrusted to us. My 
nurse had taught me that being good meant do- 
ing unto others as we would be done by ; Gilo cried 
to me : * Strike down, that you may not be struck 
down. Away with mercy, if the welfare of the 
state is threatened ! * And how many hands are 
raised against Rome, the universal empire, which I 
rule over ! It needs a strong hand to keep its 
antagonistic parts together. Otherwise it would 
fall apart like a bundle of arrows when the string 
that bound them is broken. And I, even as a 
boy, had sworn to my father, by the Terminus 



30 



A THORNY PATH. 



stone in the Capitol, never to abandon a single 
inch of his ground without fighting for it. He, 
Severus, was the wisest of the rulers. Only the 
blind love for his second son, encouraged by the 
women, caused him to forget his moderation and 
prudence. My brother Geta was to reign together 
with me over the empire, which ought to have been 
mine alone as the first-born. Every year festivals 
were kept, with prayers and sacrifices, to the " love 
of the brothers." You have perhaps seen the coins, 
which show us hand in hand, and have on them the 
inscription, * Eternal* union * ! 

" I in union — I hand in hand with the man I 
most hated under the sun ! It almost maddened 
me only to hear his voice. I would have liked 
best of all to spring at his throat when I saw him 
with his learned fellows squandering their time. 
Do you know what they did ? They invented the 
names by which the voices of different animals were 
to be known. Once I snatched the pencil out of the 
hand of the freedman as he was writing the sen- 
tences, * The horse neighs, the pig grunts, the goat 
bleats, the cow lows, the sheep baas.* * He, him- 
self,' I added, * croaks like a hoarse jay.' 

" That 1 should share the government with this 
miserable, faint-hearted, poisonous nobody could 
never be, — this enemy, who, when I said * Yes,' 
cried * No ! ' who frustrated all my measures, — it was 
impossible ! It would have caused the destruction 
of the state, as certainly as it was the unfairest 
and unwisest of the deeds of Severus, to place the 
younger brother as co-regent with the first-born, 
the rightful heir to the throne. I, whom my father 
had taught to watch for signs, was reminded every 
hour that this unbearable position must come to 
an end. 



A THORNY PATH. 



31 



" After the death of Severus, we lived at first 
close to one another in separate parts of the same 
palace like two lions in a cage across which a par- 
tition has been erected, so that they may not recip- 
rocally mangle each other. 

" We used to meet at my mother's. 

" That morning my mastiff had bitten Geta's wolf- 
hound and killed him, and they had found a black 
liver in the beast he had sent for sacrifice. I had 
been informed of this. Destiny was on my side. 
This indolent inactivity must be brought to a close. 
I myself do not know how I felt as I mounted the 
steps to my mother's rooms. I only remember dis- 
tinctly that a demon cried continually in my ear, 
' You have murdered your brother ! ' Then I sud- 
denly found myself face to face with him. It was 
in the empress's reception-room. And when I saw 
the hated flat-shaped head so close to me, when his 
beardless mouth with its thick underlip smiled at 
me so sweetly and at the same time so falsely, I 
felt as if I again heard the cry with which he had 
cheered on his horse. And I felt ... I even felt 
the pain — as if he broke my thigh again with his 
wheel. And at the same time a fiend whispered in 
my ear: 'Destroy him, or he will kill you, and 
through him Rome will perish ! * 

" Then I seized my sword. In his odious, peev- 
ish voice he said something — I forget what non- 
sense — to me. Then it appeared to me as if all the 
sheep and goats over which he had squandered his 
time were bleating at me. The blood rushed to my 
head. The room spun round me in a circle. Black 
spots on a red ground danced before my eyes. 
And then — What flashed in my right hand was 
my own naked sword ! I neither heard nor said 
anything further. Nor had I planned, nor ever 



32 



A THORNY PATH. 



thought of, what then occurred. . . . But suddenly 
I felt as if a mountain of oppressive lead had fallen 
from my breast. How easily I could breathe again ! 
All that had just before turned round me in a mad, 
whirling dance stood still. The sun shone brightly 
in the large rooifi ; a shaft of light, showing danc- 
ing dust, fell on Geta. He sank on his knees close 
to me, with my sword in his breast. My mother 
made a fruitless effort to shield him. His blood 
trickled over her hand. I can still see every ring 
on those slender, white fingers. I also remember 
distinctly how, when I raised my sword against 
him, my mother rushed in between us to protect 
her favorite. The sharp blade, as she tried to seize 
it, accidentally grazed her hand — I know not how 
— only the skin was slightly cut. Yet what a 
scream she gave over the wound which the son had 
given his mother ! Julia Maesa, her daughter Mam- 
maea, and the other women, rushed in. How they 
exaggerated! They made a river out of every 
drop of blood. 

" So the dreadful deed was done ; and yet, had I 
let the wretch live, I should have been a traitor to 
Rome, to myself, and to my father's life's work. 
That day, for the first time, I was ruler of the world. 
Those who accuse me of fratricide no doubt believe 
themselves to be right. But they certainly are not. 
I know better. You also know now with me that 
destiny, and not I, struck Geta out from among the 
living." 

Here he sat for some time in breathless silence. 
Then he asked Melissa : 

'* You understand now how I came to shed my 
brother's blood ? " 

She started, and repeated gently after him : 

" Yes, I understand it." 



n 



A THORNY PATH. 33 

Deep compassion filled her heart, and yet she 
felt she dare not sanction what she had heard and 
deplored. Torn by deep and conflicting feelings 
she threw back her head, brushed her hair off her 
face, and cried : " Let me go now ; I can bear it no 
longer ! " 

" So soft-hearted ? " asked he, and shook his 
head disapprovingly. " Life rages more wildly 
round the throne than in an artist's home. You 
will have to learn to swim through the roaring tor- 
rent with me. Believe me, even enormities can 
become quite commonplace. And, besides, why 
does it still shock you when you yourself know that 
it was indispensable ? " 

"I am only a weak girl,. and I feel as if I had 
witnessed these fearful deeds, and had to bear the 
terrible blood-guiltiness with you! " broke from her 
lips. 

" That is what you must and shall do ! It is to 
that end that I have confided to you what no one else 
has ever heard from my mouth ! " cried Caracalla, 
his eyes flashing more brightly. She felt as though 
this cry called her from her slumbers and revealed 
the precipice to which she had strayed in her sleep- 
walking. 

When Caracalla had begun telling her of his 
youth, she had only listened with half an ear ; for 
she could not forget Berenike's rescuing ship. But 
soon his confessions completely attracted her at- 
tention, and the lament of this powerful man on 
whom so many injuries and wrongs had fallen, who 
even in childhood had been deprived of the happi- 
ness of a mother's love, had touched her tender 
heart. That which was afterward told to her she 
had identified with her own humble life ; she heard 
with a shudder that it was to the malice of his brother 

27 



34 



A THORNY PATH. 



that this unhappy being owed the injury which, 
like a poisonous blight, had marred for him all 
the joys of existence, while she owed all that was 
loveliest and best in her young life to a brother's 
love. 

The grounds on which Caracalla had based the 
assertion that destiny had compelled him to murder 
Geta appeared to her young and inexperienced mind 
as indisputable. He was only the pitiable victim 
of his birth and of a cruel fate. Besides, the hum- 
blest and most sober-minded can not resist the 
charm of majesty ; and this hapless man, who had 
honored Melissa with his confidence, and who had 
assured her so earnestly that she was of such im- 
portance to him and could do so much for him, was 
the ruler of the universe. 

She had also felt, after Caesar's confession, that 
she had a right to be proud, since he had thought 
her worthy to take an interest in the tragedy in the 
imperial palace, as if she had been a member of the 
court. In her lively imagination she had witnessed 
the ghastly act to which he — as she had certainly 
believed, even when she had replied to his question 
— had been forced by fate. 

But the demand which had followed her answer 
now recurred to her. The picture of Diodoros, 
which had completely vanished from her thoughts 
while she had been listening, suddenly appeared to 
her, and, as she fancied, he looked at her reproach- 
fully. 

Had she, then, transgressed against her be- 
trothed ? 

No, no, indeed she had not ! 

She loved him, and only him ; and for that very 
reason, her upright judgment told her now, that it 
would be sinning against her lover to carry out 



A THORNY PATH. 



35 



Caracalla's wish, as if she had become his fellow- 
culprit, or certainly the advocate of the bloody out- 
rage. She could think of no answer to his " That 
is what you must and shall do ! " that would not 
awaken his wrath. Cautiously, and with sincere 
thanks for his confidence in her, she begged him 
once more to allow her to leave him, because she 
needed rest after such a shock to her mind. And 
it would also do him good to grant himself a short 
rest. But he assured her he knew that he could 
only rest when he had fulfilled his duty as a sover- 
eign. His father had said, a few minutes before he 
drew his last breath : 

" If there is anything more to be done, give it 
me to do," and he, the son, would do likewise. 

" Moreover," he concluded, " it has done me 
good to bring to light that which I had for so long 
kept sealed within me. To gaze in your face at the 
same time was, perhaps, even better physic." 

At this he rose and, seizing the startled girl by 
both hands, he cried : 

" You, child, can satisfy the insatiable ! The 
love which I offer you resembles a full bunch of 
grapes, and yet I am quite content if you will give 
me back but one berry." 

At the very commencement, this declaration was 
drowned by a loud shout which rang through the 
room in waves of sound. 

Caracalla started, but, before he could reach the 
window, old Adventus rushed in breathless ; and he 
was followed, though in a more dignified manner, 
with a not less hasty step and every sign of excite- 
ment, by Macrinus, the prefect of the praetorians, 
with his handsome young son and a few of Caesar's 
friends, 

" This is how I rest ! " exclaimed Caracalla, bit- 



36 



A THORNY PATH. 



terly, as he released Melissa's hand and turned in- 
quiringly to the intruders. 

, The news had spread among the praetorians and 
the Macedonian legions, that the emperor, who, 
contrary to his custom, had not shown himself for 
two days, was seriously ill, and at the point of 
death. Feeling extremely anxious about one who 
had showered gold on them, and given them such a 
degree of freedom as no other Imperator had ever 
allowed them, they had collected before the Sera- 
peum and demanded to see Caesar. Caracalla's 
eyes lighted up at this information, and, excitedly 
pleased, he cried : 

" They only are really faithful ! " 

He asked for his sword and helmet, and sent 
for the paludamentuniy the general's cloak of purple, 
embroidered with gold, which he never otherwise 
wore except on the field. The soldiers should see 
that he intended leading in future battles. 

While they waited, he conversed quietly with 
Macrinus and the others ; when, however, the costly 
garment covered his shoulders, and when his favor- 
ite, Theocritus, who had known best how to support 
him during his illness, offered him an arm, he an- 
swered imperiously that he required no assistance. 

" Nevertheless, you should, after so serious an 
attack — " the physician in ordinary ventured to ex- 
hort him ; but he interrupted him scornfully, and, 
glancing toward Melissa, exclaimed : 

" Those little hands there contain more healing 
power than yours and the great Galenus's put to- 
gether." 

Thereupon he beckoned to the young girl, and 
when she once more besought his permission to go, 
he left the room with the commanding cry, " You 
are to wait ! " 



A THORNY PATH. 37 

He had rather far to go and some steps to 
mount in order to reach the balcony which ran 
round the base of the cupola of the Pantheon which 
his father had joined to the Serapeum, yet he un- 
dertook this willingly, as thence he could best be 
seen and heard. 

A few hours earlier it would have been impossi» 
ble for him to reach this point, and Epagathos had 
arranged that a sedan-chair and strong bearers 
should be waiting at the foot of the steps ; but he 
refused it, for he felt entirely restored, and the 
shouts of his warriors intoxicated him like spark- 
ling wine. 

Meanwhile Melissa remained behind in the audi- 
ence-chamber. She must obey Caesar's command. 
Yet it frightened her ; and, besides, she was woman 
enough to feel it as an offense that the man who 
had assured her so sincerely of his gratitude, and 
who even feigned to love her, should have. refused 
so harshly her desire to rest. She foresaw that, as 
long as he remained in Alexandria, she would have 
to be his constant companion. She trembled at the 
idea ; yet, if she tried to fly from him, all she loved 
would be lost. No, this must not be thought of ! 
She must remain. 

She threw herself on a divan, lost in thought, and 
as she realized the confidence of which the unap- 
proachable, proud emperor had thought her worthy, 
a secret voice whispered to her that it was certainly 
a delightful thing to share the overwhelming agita- 
tions of the highest and greatest. And was he then 
really bad, he who felt the necessity of vindicating 
himself before a simple girl, and to whom it ap- 
peared so intolerable to be misjudged and con- 
demned even by her ? Besides being the emperor 
and a suffering man, Caracalla had also become her 



38 A THORNY PATH. 

wooer. It never once entered her mind to accept 
him; but still it flattered her extremely that the 
greatest of men should declare his love for her. 
Why, then, need she fear him ? She was so impor- 
tant to him, she could do so much for him, that he 
would surely take care not to insult or offend her. 
This modest child,, who till quite lately had trem- 
bled before her own father's temper, now, in the 
consciousness of Caesar's favor, felt herself strong 
to triumph over the wrath and passions of the most 
powerful and most terrible of men. In the mean 
time she dared not risk confessing to him that she 
was another's bride, for that might determine him 
to let Diodoros feel his power. The thought that 
the emperor could care about her good opinion 
greatly pleased her ; it even had the effect of rais- 
ing the hope in her inexperienced mind that Cara- 
calla would moderate his passion for her sake — 
when old Adventus came into the room. 

He was in a hurry; for preparations had to 
be made in the dining-hall for the reception of the 
ambassadors. But when at his appearance Melissa 
rose from the divan he begged her good-naturedly 
to continue resting. No one could tell what hu- 
mor Caracalla might be in when he returned. She 
had often seen how rapidly that chameleon could 
change color. Who that had seen him just now, 
going to meet his soldiers, would believe that he 
had a few hours before sent away, with hard words, 
the widow of the Egyptian governor, who had come 
to beg mercy for her husband ? 

" So that wretch, Theocritus, has really carried 
out his intention of ruining the honest Titianus ? " 
asked Melissa, horrified. 

" Not only of ruining him," answered the cham- 
berlain ; " Titianus is by this time beheaded." 



A THORNY PATH. 



39 



The old man bowed and left the room ; but Me- 
lissa remained behind, feeling as if the floor had 
opened in front of her. He, whose ardent assur- 
ance she had just now believed, that he had been 
forced to shed the blood of an impious wretch, in 
obedience to an overpowering fate, was capable of al- 
lowing the noblest of men to be beheaded, un judged, 
merely to please a mercenary favorite ! His confes- 
sion, then, had been nothing but a revolting piece 
of acting ! He had endeavored to vanquish the dis- 
gust she felt for him merely to ensnare her and 
her healing hand more surely — as his plaything, 
his physic, his sleeping draught. And she had 
entered the trap, and acquitted him of the most 
horrible blood-guiltiness. 

He had that very day rejected, without pity, a 
noble Roman lady who petitioned for her hus- 
band's life, and with the same breath he had after- 
wards befooled her ! 

She started up, indignant and deeply wounded. 

Was it not ignominious even to wait here like a 
prisoner in obedience to the command of this wretch ? 

And she had dared for one moment to compare 
this monster with Diodoros, the handsomest, the 
best, and most amiable of youths ! 

It seemed to her inconceivable. If only he had 
not the power to destroy all that was dearest to her 
heart, what pleasure it would have been to shout 
in his face : 

" I detest you, murderer, and I am the betrothed 
of another, who is as good and beautiful as you are 
vile and odious ! " 

Then the question occurred to her whether it 
was only for the sake of her healing hands that he 
had felt attracted to her, and had made her an 
avowal as if she were his equal. 



40 



A THORNY PATH. 



The blood mounted to her face at this thought, 
and with a burning brow she walked to the open 
window. 

A crowd of presentiments rushed into her inno- 
cent and, till then, unsuspecting heart, and they 
were all so alarming that it was a relief to her when 
a shout of joy from the panoplied breasts of several 
thousand armed men rent the air. Mingling with 
this overpowering demonstration of united rejoic- 
ing from such huge masses, came the blare of the 
trumpets and horns of the assembled legions. 
What a maddening noise ! 

Before her lay the square, filled with many le- 
gions of warriors who surrounded the Serapeum 
in their shining armor, with their eagles and vexilla. 
The praetorians stood by the picked men of the 
Macedonian phalanx, and with these were all the 
troops who had escorted the imperial general 
hither, and the garrisons of the city of Alexander 
who hoped to be called out in the next war. 

On the balcony, decorated with statues which 
surrounded the colonnade of the Pantheon on which 
the cupola rested, she saw Caracalla, and at a re- 
spectful distance a superb escort of his friends, in 
red and white togas, bordered with purple stripes, 
and wearing armor. Having taken off his gold hel- 
met, the imperial general bowed to his people, and 
at every nod of his head, and each more vigorous 
movement, the enthusiastic cheers were renewed 
more loudly than ever. 

Macrinus then stepped up to Caesar's side, and 
the lictors who followed him, by lowering their 
fasces, signaled to the warriors to keep silence. 

Instantly the ear-splitting din changed to a 
speechless lull. 

At first she still heard the lances and shields, 



A THORNY PATH. 41 

which several of the warriors had waved in enthu- 
siastic joy, ringing against the ground, and the 
clatter of the swords being put back in their sheaths ; 
then this also ceased, and finally, although only the 
superior officers had arrived on horseback, the 
stamping of hoofs, the snorting of the horses, and 
the rattle of the chains at their bits, were the only 
sounds. 

Melissa listened breathlessly, looking first at the 
square and the soldiers below, then at the balcony 
where the emperor stood. In spite of the aversion 
she felt, her heart beat quicker. It was as if this 
immeasurable army had only one voice ; as if an 
irresistible force drew all these thousands of eyes 
toward one point — the one little man up there on 
the Pantheon. 

Directly he began to speak, Melissa's glance was 
also fixed on Caracalla. 

She only heard the closing sentence, as, with 
raised voice, he shouted to the soldiers ; and from 
it she gathered that he thanked his companions in 
arms for their anxiety, but that he still felt strong 
enough to share all their difficulties with them. Se- 
vere exertions lay behind them. The rest in this 
luxurious city would do them all good. There was 
still much to be conquered in the rich East, and to 
add to what they had already won, before they 
could return to Rome to celebrate a well-earned 
triumph. The weary should make themselves com- 
fortable here. The wealthy merchants in whose 
houses he had quartered them had been told to 
attend to their wants, and if they neglected to do 
so every single warrior was man enough to show 
them what a soldier needed for his comfort. The 
people here looked askance at him and his sol- 
diers, but too much moderation would be misplaced. 



42 



A THORNY PATH. 



There certainly were some things even here which 
the host was not bound to supply to his military ; 
he, Caesar, would provide them with these, and for 
that purpose he had put aside two million denarii 
out of his own poverty to distribute among them. 

This speech had several times been interrupted 
by applause, but now such a tremendous shout of 
joy went up that it would have drowned the loudest 
thunder. The number of voices as well as their 
power seemed to have doubled. 

Caracalla had added another link to the golden 
chain which already bound him to these faithful 
people ; and, as he smiled and nodded to the delight- 
ed crowd from the balcony, he looked like a happy, 
light-hearted youth who had prepared a great treat 
for himself and several beloved friends. 

What he said further was lost in the confusion of 
voices in the square. The ranks were broken up, 
and the cuirasses, helmets, and arms of the moving 
warriors caught the sun and sent bright beams of 
light crossing one another over the wide space sur- 
rounded with dazzling white marble statues. 

When Caracalla left the balcony, Melissa drew 
back from the window. 

The compassionate impulse to lighten the lot of 
a sufferer, which had before drawn her so strongly to 
Caracalla, had now lost its sense and meaning for thisi 
healthy, high-spirited man. She considered herself 
cheated, as if she had been fooled by sham suffer- 
ing into giving excessively large alms to an artful 
beggar. 

Besides, she loved her native town, and Cara- 
calla's advice to the soldiers to force the citizens to 
provide luxurious living for them, had made her 
considerably more rebellious. If he ever put her 
again in a position to speak her mind freely to 



A THORNY PATH. 



43 



him, she would tell him all undisguisedly ; but in- 
stantly it again rushed into her mind that she must 
keep guard over her tongue before the easily un- 
chained wrath of this despot, until her father and 
brothers were in safety once more. 

Before the emperor returned, the room was filled 
with people, of whom she knew none, excepting 
her old friend the white-haired, learned Samonicus. 
She was the aim and center of all eyes, and when 
even the kindly old man greeted her from a distance, 
and so contemptuously, that the blood rushed to 
her face, she begged Adventus to take her into the 
next room. 

The Chamberlain did as she wished, but before 
he left her he whispered to her : " Innocence is 
trusting; but it is not of much avail here. Take 
care, child ! They say there are sand-banks in the 
Nile which, like soft pillows, entice one to rest. But 
if you use them they become alive, and a crocodile 
creeps out, with open jaws. I am talking already 
in metaphor, like an Alexandrian, but you will un- 
derstand me." 

Melissa bowed acknowledgment to him, and the 
old man went on : 

" He may perhaps forget you ; for many things 
had accumulated during his illness. If the mass of 
business, as it comes in, is not settled for twenty- 
four hours, it swells like a mill-stream that has the 
sluice down. But when work is begun, it quite car- 
ries him away. He forgets then to eat and drink. 
Ambassadors have arrived also from the Empress- 
mother, from Armenia, and Parthia. If he does 
not ask for you in half an hour, it will be supper- 
time, and I will let you out through that door." 

" Do so at once," begged Melissa, with raised, 
petitioning hands ; but the old man replied : " I 



44 A THORNY PATH. 

should then reward you but ill for having warmed 
my feet for me. Remember the crocodile under 
the sand ! Patience, child ! There is Caesar's zith- 
ern. If you can play, amuse yourself with that. 
The door shuts closely and the curtains are thick. 
My old ears just now were listening to no pur- 
pose." 

But Caracalla was so far from forgetting Me- 
lissa that although he had attended to the commu- 
nication brought to him by the ambassadors, and 
the various dispatches from the senate, he asked for 
her even at the door of the tablinum. He had 
seen her from the balcony looking out on the 
square ; so she had witnessed the reception his sol- 
diers had given him. The magnificent spectacle 
must have impressed her and filled her with joy. 
He was anxious to hear all this from her own lips, 
before he settled down to work. 

Adventus whispered to him where he had taken 
her, to avoid the persecuting glances of the numer- 
ous strangers, and Caracalla nodded to him approv- 
ingly and went into the next room. 

She sat there with the zithern, letting her fingers 
glide gently over the strings. 

On his entering, she drew back hastily; but he 
cried to her brightly : " Do not disturb yourself. I 
love that instrument. I am having a statue erected 
to Mesomedes, the great zithern-player — you per- 
haps know his songs. This evening, when the feast 
and the press of work are over, I will hear how you 
play. I will also play a few airs to you." 

Melissa then plucked up courage and said, de- 
cidedly : " No, my lord ; I am about to bid you fare- 
well for to-day." 

" That sounds very determined," he answered, 
half surprised and half amused. " But may I be 



A THORNY PATH. 45 

allowed to know what has made you decide on this 
step ? " 

" There is a great deal of work waiting for you," 
she replied, quietly. 

" That is my affair, not yours," was the crushing 
answer. 

" It is also mine," she said, endeavoring to keep 
calm ; " for you have not yet completely recovered, 
and, should you require my help again this even- 
ing, I could not attend to your call." 

"No?" he asked, wrathfully, and~his eyelids 
began to twitch. 

" No, my lord ; for it would not be seemly in a 
maiden to visit you by night, unless you were ill 
and needed nursing. As it is, I ishall meet your 
friends — my heart stands still only to think of it — " 

" I will teach them what is due to you ! " Cara- 
calla bellowed out, and his brow was knit once 
more. . 

" But you can not compel me," she replied, firm- 
ly, " to change my mind as to what is seemly," and 
the courage which failed her if she met a spider, 
but which stood by her in serious danger as a 
faithful ally, made her perfectly steadfast as she 
eagerly added : " Not an hour since you promised 
me that so long as I remained with you I should 
need no other protector, and might count on your 
gratitude. But those were mere words, for, when I 
besought you to grant me some repose, you scorned 
my very reasonable request, and roughly ordered 
me to remain and attend on you." 

At this Caesar laughed aloud. 

" Just so ! You are a woman, and like all the 
rest. You are sweet and gentle only so long as 
you have your own way." 

" No, indeed," cried Melissa, and her eyes filled 



46 A THORNY PATH. 

with tears. " I only look further than from one hour 
to the next. If I should sacrifice what I think right, 
merely to come and go at my own will, I should 
soon be not only miserable myself, but the object 
of your contempt." 

Overcome by irresistible distress, she broke into 
loud sobs ; but Caracalla, with a furious stamp of 
his foot, exclaimed : 

" No tears ! I can not, I will not see you weep. 
Can any harm come to you ? Nothing but good ; 
nothing but the best of happiness do I propose for 
you. By Apollo and Zeus, that is the truth ! Till 
now you have been unlike other women, but when 
you behave like them, you shall — I swear it — you 
shall feel which of us two is the stronger ! " 

He roughly snatched her hand away from her 
face and thereby achieved his end, for her indigna- 
tion at being thus touched by a man's brutal hand 
gave Melissa strength to suppress her sobs. Only 
her wet cheeks showed what a flood of tears she 
had shed, as, almost beside herself with anger, she 
exclaimed : 

"Let my hand go! Shame on the man who 
insults a defenseless girl ! You swear ! Then I, 
too, may take an oath, and, by the head of my 
mother, you shall never see me again excepting as 
a corpse, if you ever attempt violence ! You are 
Caesar — you are the stronger. Who ever doubted 
it ? But you will never compel me to a vile action, 
not if you could inflict a thousand deaths on me 
instead of one ! " 

Caracalla, without a word, had released her hand 
and was staring at her in amazement. 

A woman, and so gentle a woman, defying him 
as no man would have dared to do ! 

She stood before him, her hand raised, her bo- 



A THORNY PATH. 



47 



som heaving ; a flame of anger sparkled in her eyes 
through their tears, and he had never before thought 
her. so fair. What majesty there was in this girl, 
whose simple grace had made him more than once 
address her as " child " ! She was like a queen, an 
empress ; perhaps she might become one. The idea 
struck hhn for the first time. And that little hand 
which now fell — what soothing power it had, how 
much he owed to it ! How fervently he had wished 
but just now to be understood by her, and to be 
thought better of by her than by the rest ! And 
this wish still possessed him. Nay, he was more 
strongly attracted than ever to this creature, worthy 
as she was of the highest in the land, and made 
doubly bewitching by her proud willfulness. That 
he should see her for the last time seemed to him 
as impossible as that he should never again see 
daylight ; and yet her whole aspect announced that 
her threat was serious. 

His aggrieved pride and offended sense of abso- 
lute power struggled with his love, repentance, and 
fear of losing her healing presence ; but the struggle 
was brief, especially as a mass of business to be at- 
tended to lay before him like a steep hill to climb, 
and haste was imperative. 

He went up to her, shaking his head, and said 
in the superior tone of a sage rebuking thoughtless- 
ness : 

" Like all the rest of them — 1 repeat it. My de- 
mands had no object in view but to make you happy 
and derive comfort from you. How hot must the 
blood be which boils and foams at the contact of a 
spark ! Only too like my own ; and, since I under- 
stand you, I find it easy to forgive you. Indeed, I 
must finally express myself grateful ; for I was in 
danger of neglecting my duties as a sovereign for 



48 A THORNY PATH. 

the sake of pleasing my heart. Go, then, and rest, 
while I devote myself to business." 

At this, Melissa forced herself to smile, and said, 
still somewhat tearfully : " How grateful I am ! 
And you will not again require me to remain, will 
you, when I assure you that it is not fitting ? " 

" Unluckily, I am not in the habit of yielding to 
a girl's whims." 

" I have no whims," she eagerly declared. " But 
you will keep your word now, and allow me to with- 
draw ? I implore you to let me go ! " 

With a deep sigh and an amount of self-control of 
which he would yesterday have thought himself in- 
capable, he let go her hand, and she with a shudder 
thought that she had found the answer to the ques- 
tion he had asked her. His eyes, not his words, 
had betrayed it ; for a woman can see in a suitor's 
look what color his wishes take, while a woman's 
eyes only tell her lover whether or no she recipro- 
cates his feelings. 

"I am going," she said, but he remarked the 
deadly paleness which overspread her features, and 
her colorless cheeks encouraged him in the belief 
that, after a sleepless night and the agitations of 
the last few hours, it was only physical exhaustion 
which made Melissa so suddenly anxious to escape 
from him. So, saying kindly : 

" Till to-morrow, then," he dismissed her. 

But when she had almost left the room, he added : 
" One thing more ! To-morrow we will try our zith- 
erns together. After my bath is the time I like 
best for such pleasant things ; Adventus will fetch 
you. I am curious to hear you play and sing. Of 
all sounds, that of the human voice is the sweetest. 
Even the shouting of my legions is pleasing to the 
ear and heart. Do you not think so, and does not 



A THORNY PATH. 



49 



the acclamation of so many thousands stir your 
soul?" 

" Certainly," she replied hastily ; and she longed 
to reproach him for the injustice he was doing the 
populace of Alexandria to benefit his warriors, but 
she felt that the time was ill chosen, and everything 
gave way to her longing to be gone out of the 
dreadful man's sight. 

In the next room she met Philostratus, and 
begged him to conduct her to the lady Euryale ; 
for all the anterooms were now thronged, and she 
had lost the calm confidence in which she had come 
thither. 



2d 



CHAPTER XXII. 

As Melissa made her way with the philosopher 
through the crowd, Philostratus said to her : " It is 
for your sake, child, that these hundreds have had 
so long to wait to-day, and many hopes will be dis- 
appointed. To satisfy all is a giant's task. But 
Caracalla must do it, well or ill." 

" Then he will forget me ! " replied Melissa, with 
a sigh of relief. 

"Hardly," answered the philosopher. He was 
sorry for the terrified girl, and in his wish to lighten 
her woes as far as he could, he said, gravely : " You 
called him terrible, and he can be more terrible 
than any man living. But he has been kind to you 
so far, and, if you take my advice, you will always 
seem to expect nothing from him that is not good 
and noble." 

" Then I must be a hypocrite," replied Melissa. 
** Only to-day he has murdered the noble Titianus." 

" That is an affair of state which does not 
concern you," replied Philostratus. " Read my 
description of Achilles. I represent him among 
other heroes such as Caracalla might be. Try, on 
your part, to see him in that light. I know that it 
is sometimes a pleasure to him to justify the good 
opinion of others. Encourage your imagination to 
think the best of him. I shall tell him that you re- 
gard him as magnanimous and noble." 



A THORNY PATH. 



SI 



"No, no!" cried Melissa; "that would make 
everything worse." 

But the philosopher interrupted her. 

" Trust my riper experience. I know him. If 
you let him know your true opinion of him, I will 
answer for nothing. My Achilles reveals the good 
qualities with which he came into the world ; and if 
you look closely you may still find sparks- among 
the ashes." 

He here took his leave, for they had reached 
the vestibule leading to the high-priest's lodgings, 
and a few minutes later Melissa found herself with 
Euryale, to whom she related all that she had seen 
and felt. When she told her older friend what 
Philostratus had advised, the lady stroked her hair, 
and said : " Try to follow the advice of so experi- 
enced a man. It can not be very difficult. When 
a woman's heart has once been attached to a man — 
and pity is one of the strongest of human ties — the 
bond may be strained and worn, but a few threads 
must always remain. 

But Melissa hastily broke in : 

" There is not a spider's thread left which binds 
me to that cruel man. The murder of Titianus has 
snapped them all." 

" Not so," replied the lady, confidently. " Pity 
is the only form of love which even the worst crime 
can not eradicate from a kind heart. You prayed 
for Caesar before you knew him, and that was out 
of pure human charity. Exercise now a wider com- 
passion, and reflect that Fate has called you to take 
care of a hapless creature raving in fever and hard 
to deal with. How many Christian women, espe- 
cially such as call themselves deaconesses, volunta- 
rily assume such duties ! and good is good, right 
is right for all, whether they pray to one God or 



52 



A THORNY PATH. 



to several. If you keep your heart pure, and con- 
stantly think of the time which shall be fulfilled for 
each of us, to our ruin or to our salvation, you will 
pass unharmed through this great peril. I know it, 
I feel it/' 

" But you do not know him," exclaimed Melissa, 
" and how terrible he can be ! And Diodoros ! 
When he is well again, if he hears that I am with 
Caesar, in obedience to his call whenever he sends 
for me, and if evil tongues tell him dreafdful things 
about me, he, too, will condemn me ! " 

" No, no," the matron declared, kissing her brow 
and eyes. " If he loves you truly, he will trust 
you." 

"He loves me," sobbed Melissa; "but, even if 
he does not desert me when I am thus branded, his * 
father will come between us." 

" God forbid ! " cried Euryale. " Remain what 
you are, and I will always be the same to you, 
come what may ; and those who love you will not 
refuse to listen to an old woman who has grown 
gray in honor." 

And Melissa believed her motherly, kind, worthy 
friend ; and, with the new confidence which revived 
in her, her longing for her lover began to stir irre- 
sistibly. She wanted a fond glance from the eyes 
of the youth who loved her, and to whom, for an- 
other man's sake, she could not give all his due, 
nay, who had perhaps a right to complain of her. 
This she frankly confessed, and the matron herself 
conducted the impatient girl to see Diodoros. 

Melissa again found Andreas in attendance on 
the sufferer, and she was surprised at the warmth 
with which the high-priest's wife greeted the Chris- 
tian. 

Diodoros was already able to be dressed and to 



A THORNY PATH. 53 

sit up. He was pale and weak, and his head was 
still bound up, but he welcomed the girl affection- 
ately, though with a mild reproach as to the rarity 
of her visits. 

Andreas had already informed him that Melissa 
was kept away by her mediation for the prisoners, 
and so he was comforted by her assurance that if 
her duty would allow of it she would never leave 
him again. And the joy of having her there, the 
delight of gazing into her sweet, lovely face, and 
the youthful gift of forgetting the past in favor of 
the present, silenced every bitter reflection. He 
was soon blissfully listening to her with a fresh 
color in his cheeks, and never had he seen her so 
tender, so devoted, so anxious to show him the full- 
ness of her great love. The quiet, reserved girl was 
to-day the wooer, and with the zeal called forth by 
her ardent wish to do him good, she expressed all 
the tenderness of her warm heart so frankly and 
gladly that to him it seemed as though Eros had 
never till now pierced her with the right shaft. 

As soon as Euryale was absorbed in conversation 
with Andreas, she offered him her lips with gay au- 
dacity, as though in defiance of some stern dragon 
of virtue, and he, drunk with rapture, enjoyed what 
she granted him. And soon it was he who became 
daring, declaring that there would be time enough 
to talk another day ; that for the present her rosy 
mouth had nothing to do but to cure him with kisses. 
And during this sweet give and take, she implored 
him with pathetic fervor never, never to doubt her 
love, whatever he might hear of her. Their older 
friends, who had turned their backs on the couple 
and were talking busily by a window, paid no heed 
to them, and the blissful conviction of being loved 
as ardently as she loved flooded her whole being. 



54 



A THORNY PATH. 



Only now and then did the thought of Caesar 
trouble for a moment the rapture of that hour, like 
a hideous form appearing out of distant clouds. 
She felt prompted indeed to tell her lover every- 
thing, but it seemed so difficult to make him under- 
stand exactly how everything had happened, and 
Diodoros must not be distressed. And, indeed, in- 
toxicated as he was with heated passion, he made 
the attempt impossible. 

When he spoke it was only to assure her of his 
love ; and when the lady Euryale at last called her 
to go, and looked in the girl's glowing face, Melissa 
felt as though she were snatched from a rapturous 
dream. 

In the anteroom they were stopped by Andreas. 

Euryale had indeed relieved his worst fears, still 
he was anxious to lay before the girl the question 
whether she would not be wise to take advantage of 
this very night to make her escape. She, however, 
her eyes still beaming with happiness, laid her little 
hand coaxingly on his bearded mouth, and begged 
him not to sadden her high spirits and hopes of a 
better time by warnings and dismal forecasts. Even 
the lady Euryale had advised her to trust fearlessly 
to herself, and sitting with her lover she had ac- 
quired the certainty that it was best so. The f reed- 
man could not bear to disturb this happy confidence, 
and only impressed on Melissa that she should send 
for him if ever she needed him. He would find her 
a hiding-place, and the lady Euryale had undertaken 
to provide a messenger. He then bade them god- 
speed, and they returned to the high-priest's dwell- 
ing. 

In the vestibule they found a servant from the 
lady Berenike; in his mistress's name he desired 
Euryale to send Melissa to spend the night with her. 



A THORNY PATH. 



55 



This invitation, which would remove Melissa from 
the Serapeum, was welcome to them both, and the 
matron herself accompanied the young girl down a 
private staircase leading to a small side-door. Ar- 
gutis, who had come to inquire for his young mis- 
tress, was to be her escort and to bring her back 
early next morning to the same entrance. 

The old slave had much to tell h^r. He had 
been on his feet all day. He had been to the harbor 
to inquire as to the return of the vessel with the 
prisoners on board ; to the Serapeum to inquire for 
her ; to Dido, to give her the news. He had met 
Alexander in the forenoon on the quay where the 
imperial galleys were moored. When the young 
man learned that the trireme could not come in be- 
fore next morning at the soonest, he had set out 
to cross the lake and see Zeus and his daughter. 
He had charged Argutis to let Melissa know that 
his longing for the fair Agatha gave him no peace. 

He and old Dido disapproved of their young 
master's feather-brain, which had not been made 
more steady and patient even by the serious events 
of this day and his sister's peril ; however, he did 
not allow a word of blame to escape him. He was 
happy only to be allowed to walk behind Melissa, 
and to hear from her own lips that all was well with 
her, and that Caesar was gracious. 

Alexander, indeed, had also told the old man 
that he and Caesar were " good friends " ; and now 
the slave was thinking of Pandion, Theocritus, and 
the other favorites of whom he had heard ; and hq 
assured Melissa that, as soon as her father should be 
free, Caracalla would be certain to raise him to the 
rank of knight, to give him lands and wealth, per- 
haps one of the imperial residences on the Bruchium. 
Then he, Argutis, would be house steward, and show 



56 A THORNY PATH. 

that he knew other things besides keeping the work- 
room and garden in order, splitting wood, and buy- 
ing cheaply at market. 

Melissa laughed and said he should be no worse 
off if only the first wish of her heart were fulfilled, 
and she were wife to Diodoros; and Argutis de- 
clared he would be amply content if only she allowed 
him to remain with her. 

But she only half listened and answered absently, 
for she breathed faster as she pictured to herself 
how she would show Caesar, on whom she had al- 
ready proved her power, that she had ceased to 
tremble before him. 

Thus they came to the house of Seleukus. 

A large force had taken up their quarters there. 

In the pillared hall beyond the vestibule bearded 
soldiers were sitting on benches or squatting in 
groups on the ground, drinking noisily and singing, 
or laughing and squabbling as they threw the dice 
on the costly mosaic pavement. A riotous party 
were toping and reveling in the beautiful garden 
of the impluvium round a fire which they had light- 
ed on the velvet turf. A dozen or so of officers had 
stretched themselves on cushions under one of the 
colonnades, and, without attempting to check the 
wild behavior of their men, were watching the danc- 
ing of some Egyptian girls who had been brought 
into the house of their involuntary host. Although 
Melissa was closely veiled and accompanied by a 
servant, she did not escape rude words and insolent 
glances. Indeed, an audacious young praetorian 
had put out his hand to pull away her veil, but an 
older officer stopped him. 

The lady Berenike's rooms had so far not been 
intruded on ; for Macrinus, the praetorian prefect, 
who knew Berenike through her brother-in-law the 



A THORNY PATH. 



5; 



senator Coeranus, had given orders that the women's 
apartments were to be exempt from the encroach- 
ments of the quartermaster of the body-guard. 
Breathing rapidly and with a heightened color, 
Melissa at last entered the room of Seleukus's wife. 

The matron's voice was full of bitterness as she 
greeted her young visitor with the exclamation : 
" You look as if you had fled to escape persecution ! 
And in my house, too ! Or " — and her large eyes 
flashed brightly — " or is the blood-hound on the 
track of his prey ? My boat is quite ready^-** 

When Melissa denied this, and related what had 
happened, Berenike exclaimed : " But you know 
that the panther lies still and gathers himself up 
before he springs ; or, if you do not, you may see it 
to-morrow at the Circus. There is to be a perform- 
ance in Caesar's honor, the like of which not even 
Nero' ever saw. My husband bears the chief part 
of the cost, and can think, of nothing else. He has 
even forgotten his only child, and all to please the 
man who insults us, robs and humiliates us ! Now 
that men kiss the hands which maltreat them, it is 
the part of women to defy them. You must fly, 
child ! The harbor is now closed, but it will be open 
again to-morrow morning, and, if your folks are set 
free in the course of the day, then away with you at 
once ! Or do you really hope for any good from 
the tyrant who has made this house what you now 
see it ? " 

"I know him," replied Melissa, "and I look for 
nothing but the worst." 

At this the elder woman warmly grasped the 
girl's hand, but she was interrupted by the waiting- 
woman Johanna, who said that a Roman oflicer of 
rank, a tribune, craved to be admitted. 

When Berenike refused to receive him, the maid 



58 A THORNY PATH. 

assured her that he was a young man, and had ex- 
pressed his wish to bring an urgent request to the 
lady's notice in a becoming and modest manner. 

On this the matron allowed him to be shown in 
to her, and Melissa hastily obeyed her instructions 
to withdraw into the adjoining room. 

Only a half-drawn curtain divided it from the 
room where Berenike received the soldier, and with- 
out listening she could hear the loud voice which 
riveted her attention as soon as she had recog- 
nized it. 

The young tribune, in a tone of courteous en- 
treaty, begged his hostess to provide a room for his 
brother, who was severely wounded. The sufferer 
was in a high fever, and the physician said that the 
noise and rattle of vehicles in the street, on which 
the room where he now lay looked out, and the per- 
petual coming and going of the men, might endanger 
his life. He had just been told that on the side of 
the women's apartments there was a row of rooms 
looking out on the impluvium, and he ventured to 
entreat her to spare one of them for the injured 
man. If she had a brother or a child, she would 
forgive the boldness of his request. 

So far she listened in silence ; then she suddenly 
raised her head and measured the petitioner's tall 
figure with a lurid fire in her eye. Then she replied, 
while she looked into his handsome young face with 
a half-scornful, half-indignant air : " Oh, yes ! I 
know what it is to see one we love suffer. I had 
an only child ; she was the joy of my heart. Death 
— death snatched her from me, and a few days later 
the sovereign whom you serve commanded us to 
prepare a feast for him. It seemed to him some- 
thing new and delightful to hold a revel in a house 
of mourning. At the last moment — all the guests 



A THORNY PATH. 



59 



were assembled — ^he sent us word that he himself 
did not intend to appear. But his friends laughed 
and reveled wildly enough ! They enjoyed them- 
selves, and no doubt praised our cook and our wine. 
And now — another honor we can duly appreciate! 
— he sends his praetorians to turn this house of 
mourning into a tavern, a wine-shop, where they call 
creatures in from the street to dance and sing. The 
rank to which you have risen while yet so young 
shows that you are of good family, so you can im- 
agine how highly we esteem the honor of seeing your 
men trampling, destroying, and burning in their 
camp-fires everything which years of labor and care 
had produced to make our little garden a thing of 
beauty. Only look down on them ! Macrinus, who 
commands you, promised me, moreover, that the 
women's apartments should be respected. No prae- 
torian, whether common soldier or commander," 
and here she raised her voice, " shall set foot within 
them ! Here is his writing. The prefect set the 
seal beneath it in Caesar's name." 

" I know of the order, noble lady," interrupted 
Nemesianus, " and should be the last to wish to act 
against it. I do not demand, I only appeal humbly 
to the heart of a woman and a mother." 

"A mother!" broke in Berenike, scornfully; 
"yes! and one whose soul your lord has pierced 
with daggers — a woman whose home has been dis- 
honored and made hateful to her. I have enjoyed 
sufficient honor now, and shall stand firmly on my 
rights." 

<* Hear but one thing more," began the youth, 
timidly ; but the lady Berenike had already turned 
her back upon him, and returned with a proud and 
stately carriage to Melissa in the adjoining apart- 
ment. 



6o A THORNY PATH. 

Breathing hard, as if stunned by her words, the 
tribune remained standing on the threshold where 
the terrible lady had vanished from his sight, and 
then, striving to regain his composure, pushed back 
the curling locks from his brow. But scarcely had 
Berenike entered the other room than Melissa whis- 
pered to her: "The wounded man is the unfortu- 
nate Aurelius, whose face Caracalla wounded for 
my sake." 

At this the lady's eyes suddenly flashed and 
blazed so strangely that the girl's blood ran cold. 
But she had no time to ask the reason of this emo- 
tion, for the next moment the queenly woman 
grasped the weaker one by the wrist with her 
strong right hand, and with a commanding " Come 
with me," drew her back into the room they had 
just quitted. She called to the tribune, whose hand 
was already on the door, to come back. 

The young man stood still, surprised and startled 
to see Melissa ; but the lady Berenike said, calmly : 

" Now that I have learned the honor that has 
been accorded to you, too, by the master whom you 
so faithfully serve, the poor injured man whom you 
call your brother shall be made welcome within 
these walls. He is my companion in suffering. A 
quiet, airy chamber shall be set apart for him, and 
he shall not lack careful attention, nor anything 
which even his own mother could offer him. Only 
two things I desire of you in return : that you admit 
no one of your companions-in-arms, nor any man 
whatever, into this dwelling, save only the phy- 
sician whom I shall send to you. Furthermore, that 
you do not betray, even to your nearest friend, 
whom you found here besides myself." 

Under the mortification that had wounded his 
brotherly heart, Aurelius Nemesianus had lost coun*> 



A THORNY PATH. 6l 

tenance ; but now he replied with a soldier's ready 
presence of mind : " It is difficult for me to find a 
proper answer to you, noble lady. I know right 
well that I owe you my warmest thanks, and equally 
so that he whom you call our master has inflicted 
as deep a wrong on us a^ on you ; but Caesar is still 
my military chief." 

*" Still ! " broke in Berenike. " But you are too 
youthful a tribune for me to believe that you took 
up the sword as a means of livelihood." 

** We are sons of the Aurelia," answered Neme- 
sianus, haughtily, " and it is very possible that this 
day's work may be the cause of our deserting the 
eagles we have followed in order to win glory and 
taste the delights of warfare. But all that is for 
the future to decide. Meanwhile, I thank you, noble 
lady, and also in the name of my brother, who is my 
second self. On behalf of Apollinaris, too, I beg 
you to pardon the rudeness which we offered to this 
maiden — " 

" I am not angry with you any more," cried Me» 
lissa, eagerly and frankly, and the tribune thanked 
her in his own and his brother's name. 

He began trying to explain the unfortunate oc- 
currence, but Berenike admonished him to lose no 
time* The soldier withdrew, and the lady Berenike 
ordered her handmaiden to call the housekeeper and 
other serving-women. Then she repaired quickly 
to the room she had destined for the wounded man 
and his brother. But neither Melissa nor the other 
women could succeed in really lending her any help, 
for she herself put forth all her cleverness and 
power of head and hand, forgetting nothing that 
might be useful or agreeable in the nursing of the 
sick. In that wealthy, well-ordered house every- 
thing stood ready to hand; and in less than a 



64 A THORNY PATH. 

which had attracted her attention, and about which 
she had just asked Johanna. Perhaps for her, too, 
the time was already fulfilled, when she had taken 
courage to defy the emperor's commands. 

She rejoiced at this action, for she felt that the 
strength would never fail her now to set her will 
against his. She felt as though she bore a charni 
against his power since she had parted from her 
lover, and since the murder of the governor had 
opened her eyes to the true character of him on 
whom she had all too willingly expended her pity. 
And yet she shuddered at the thought of meeting 
the emperor again, and of having to show him that 
she felt safe with him because she trusted to his 
generosity. 

Lost in deep thought, she waited for the return 
of the lady and the Christian waiting-woman, but in 
vain. At last her eye fell upon the scrolls which the 
lady Berenike had pointed out to her. They lay in 
beautiful alabaster caskets on an ebony stand. If 
they had only been the writings of the Christians, 
telling of the life and death of their Saviour ! But 
how should writings such as those come here ? The 
casket only held the works of Philostratus, and she 
took from it the roll containing the story of the hero 
of whom he had himself spoken to her. Full of curi- 
osity, she smoothed out the papyrus with the ivory 
stick, and her attention was soon engaged by the 
lively conversation between the vintner and his Phoe- 
nician guest. She passed rapidly over the beginning, 
but soon reached the part of which Philostratus had 
told her. Under the form of Achilles he had striven 
to represent Caracalla as he appeared to the author's 
indulgent imagination. But it was no true portrait ; 
it described the original at most as his mother 
would have wished him to be. There it was written 



A THORNY PATH. 6$ 

that the vehemence flashing from the hero's bright 
eyes, even when peacefully inclined, showed how 
easily his wrath could break forth. But to those 
who loved him he was even more endearing during 
these outbursts than before. The Athenians felt 
toward him as they did toward a lion; for, if the 
king of beasts pleased them when he was at rest, he 
charmed them infinitely more when, foaming with 
bloodthirsty rage, he fell upon a bull, a wild boar, 
or some such ferocious animal. 

Yes, indeed ! Caracalla, too, fell mercilessly upon 
his prey ! Had she not seen him hewing down 
Apollinaris a few hours ago ? 

Furthermore, Achilles was said to have declared 
that he could drive away care by fearlessly en- 
co.untering the greatest dangers for the sake of 
his friends. But where were Caracalla's friends ? 

At best, the allusion could only refer to the Ro- 
man state, for whose sake the emperor certainly 
did endure many a hardship and many a wearisome 
task, and he was not the only person who had told 
her so. 

Then she turned back a little and found the 
words : " But because he was easily inclined to 
anger, Chiron instructed him in music ; for is it not 
inherent in this art to soothe violence and wrath ? 
And Achilles acquired without trouble the laws of 
harmony and sang to the lyre." 

This all corresponded with the truth, and to- 
morrow she was to discover what had suggested to 
Philostratus the story that when Achilles begged 
Calliope to endow him with the gifts of music and 
poetry she had given him so much of both as he re- 
quired to enliven the feast and banish sadness. He 
was also said to be a poet, and devoted himself most 
ardently to verse when resting from the toils of war. 

29 



66 A THORNY PATH. 

To hear that man unjustly blamed on whom her heart 
is set, only increases a woman's love; but unmerit- 
ed praise makes her criticise him more sharply, and 
is apt to transform a fond smile into a scornful one. 
Thus the picture that raised Caracalla to the level of 
an Achilles made Melissa shrug her shoulders over 
the man she dreaded; and while she even doubt- 
ed Caesar's musical capacities, Diodoros's young, 
fresh, bell-like voice rose doubly beautiful and true 
upon her memory's ear. The image of her lover 
finally drove out that of the emperor, and, while she 
seemed to hear the wedding song which the youths 
and maidens were so soon to sing for them both, 
she fell asleep. 

It was late when Johanna came to admonish her 
to retire to rest. Shortly before sunrise she was 
awakened by Berenike, who wished to take some 
rest, and who told her, before seeking her couch, 
that Apollinaris was doing well. The lady was still 
sleeping when Johanna came to inform Melissa that 
the slave Argutis was waiting to see her. 

The Christian undertook to convey the maiden's 
farewell greetings to her mistress. 

As they entered the living-room, the gardener 
had just brought in fresh flowers, among them 
three rose-bushes covered with full-blown flowers 
and half-opened, dewy buds. Melissa asked Johanna 
timidly if the lady Berenike would permit her to 
pluck one — there were so many ; to which the 
Christian replied that it would depend on the use 
it was to be put to. 

" Only for the sick tribune," answered Melissa, 
reddening. So Johanna plucked two of the fair- 
est blooms and gave them to the maiden — one for 
the man who had injured her and one for her be- 
trothed. Melissa kissed lier, gratefully, and begged 



A THORNY PATH. 6/ 

her to present the flowers to the sick man in her 
name. 

Johanna carried out her wish at once ; but the 
wounded man, gazing mournfully at the rose, mur- 
mured to himself- : " Poor, lovely, gentle child ! She 
will be ruined or dead before Caracalla leaves Alex- 
andria ! " 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The slave Argutis was waiting for Melissa in the 
antechamber. It was evident that he brought good 
news, for he beamed with joy as she came toward 
him ; and before she left the house she knew that 
her father and Philip had returned and had regained 
their freedom. 

The slave had not allowed these joyful tidings 
to reach his beloved mistress's ear, that he might 
have the undivided pleasure of bringing them him- 
self, and the delight she expressed was fully as 
great as he had anticipated. Melissa even hurried 
back to Johanna to impart to her the joyful intelli- 
gence that she might tell it to her mistress. 

When they were in the street the slave told her 
that, at break of day, the ship had cast anchor which 
brought back father and son. The prisoners had 
received their freedom while they were still at sea, 
and had been permitted to return home at once. 
All was well, only — he added, hesitatingly and with 
tears in his eyes — things were not as they used to 
be, and now the old were stronger than the young. 
Her father had. taken no harm from the heavy work 
at the oars, but Philip had returned from the galleys 
very ill, and they had carried him forthwith to the 
bedchamber, where Dido was now nursing him. It 
was a good thing that she had not been there to 
hear how the master had stormed and cursed over 



y 



A THORNY PATH. 69 

the infamy they had had to endure ; but the meet- 
ing with his birds had^ calmed him down quickly 
enough. 

Melissa and her attendant were walking in the 
direction of the Serapeum, but now she declared 
that she. must first see the liberated prisoners. And 
she insisted upon it, although Argutis assured her 
of her father's intention of seeking her at the house 
of the high.-priest, as soon as he had removed all 
traces of his captivity and his shameful work at the 
galleys in the bath. Philip she would, of course, 
find at home, he being too weak to leave the house. 
The old man had some difficulty in following his 
young mistress, and she soon stepped lightly over 
the "Welcome" on the threshold of her father's 
house. Never had the red mosaic inscription seemed 
to shine so bright and friendly, and she heard her 
name called in delighted tones from the kitchen; 

This joyful greeting from Dido was not to be 
returned from the door only. In a moment Melissa 
was standing by the hearth ; but the slave, speech- 
less with happiness, could only point with fork and 
spoon, first to the pot in which a large piece of meat 
was being boiled down into a strengthening soup 
for Philip, then to a spit on which two young 
chickens were browning before the fire, and then to 
the pan where she was frying the little fish of which 
the returned wanderer was so fond. 

But the old woman's struggle between the duty 
that kept her near the fire and the love that drew 
her away from it was not of long duration. In a 
few minutes Melissa, her hands clasping the slave's 
withered arm, was listening to the tender words of 
welcome that Dido had ready for her. The slave 
woman declared that she scarcely dared to let her 
eyes rest upon her mistress, much less touch her 



70 



A THORNY PATH. 



with the fingers that had just been cleaning fish ; 
for the girl was dressed a» grandly as the daugh- 
ter of the high-priest. Melissa laughed at this; 
but the slave went on to say that they had not 
been able to detain her master. His longing to see 
his daughter and the desire to speak with Caesar 
had driven him out of the house, and Alexander 
had, of course, accompanied him. Only Philip, 
poor, crushed worm, was at home, and the sight of 
her would put more strength into him than the 
strong soup and the old wine which his father had 
fetched for him from the store-room, although he 
generally reserved it for libations on her mother's 
grave. 

Melissa soon stood beside her brother's couch, 
and the sight of him cast a dark shadow over the 
brightness of this happy morn. As he recognized 
her, a fleeting smile crossed the pale, spiritualized 
face, which seemed to her to have grown ten years 
older in this short time ; but it vanished as quickly 
as it had come. Then the great eyes gazed blankly 
again from the shadows that surrounded them, and 
a spasm of pain quivered from time to time round 
the thin, tightly closed lips. Melissa could hardly 
restrain her tears. Was this what he had been 
brought to — the youth who only a few days ago 
had made them all feel conscious of the superiority 
of his brilliant mind ! 

Her warm heart made her feel more lovingly to- 
ward her sick brother than she had ever done when 
he was in health, and surely he was conscious of the 
tenderness with which she strove to comfort him. 

The unaccustomed, hard, and degrading work at 
the oars, she assured him, would have worn out a 
stronger man than he ; but he would soon be able 
to visit the Museum again and argue as bravely as 



A THORNY PATH. 



71 



ever. With this, she bent over him to kiss his brow, 
but he raised himself a little, and said, with a con- 
temptuous smile : 

^* Apathy — ataraxy — complete indifference — is 
the highest aim after which the soul of the skeptic 
strives. That at least " — and here his eyes flashed 
for a moment — " I have attained to in these cursed 
days. That a thinking being could become so utter- 
ly callous to everything — everything, be it what it 
may — even I could never have believed ! " He sank 
into silence, but his sister urged him to take cour- 
age — surely many a glad day was before -him yet. 

At this he raised himself more energetically, and 
exclaimed : • 

" Glad days ? — for me, and with you ? That you 
should still be of such good cheer would please or 
else astonish me if I were still capable of those sen- 
timents. If things were different, I should ask you 
now, what have you given the imperial bloodhound 
in return for our freedom ? " 

Here Melissa exclaimed indignantly, but he con- 
tinued unabashed : 

"Alexander says you have found favor with our 
imperial master. He calls, and you come. Natu- 
rally, it is for him to command. See how much can 
be made of the child of a gem-cutter ! But what 
says handsome Diodoros to all this ? — ^Why turn so 
pale ? These, truly, are questions which I would 
fling in your face were things as they used to be. 
N<nv I say in all unconcern, do what you will ! ** 

The blood had ebbed from Melissa's cheeks dur- 
ing this attack of her brother's. His injurious and 
false accusations roused her indignation to the ut- 
most, but one glance at his weary, suffering face 
showed her how great was the pain he endured, and 
in her compassionate heart pity strove against right- 



72 



A THORNY PATH. 



eous anger. The struggle was sharp, but pity pre- 
vailed ; and, instead of punishing him by a sharp 
retort, she forced herself to* explain to him in a few 
gentle words what had happened, in order to dispel 
the unworthy suspicion that must surely hurt him 
as much as it did her. She felt convinced that the 
sufferer would be cheered by her words; but he 
made no attempt to show that he appreciated her 
kindly moderation, nor to express any satisfaction. 
On the contrary, when he spoke it was in the same 
tone as before. 

" If that be the case," he said, " so much the 
better ; but were it otherwise, it would have to be 
endured just the same. I can think of nothing that 
could affect me now, and it is well. Only my body 
troubles me still. It weighs upon me like lead, and 
grows heavier with every word I utter. Therefore, 
I pray you, leave me to myself ! '* 

But his sister would not obey. " No, Philip," she 
cried, eagerly, " this may not be. Let your strong 
spirit arise and burst asunder the bonds that fetter 
and cripple it." 

At this a groan of pain escaped the philosopher, 
and, turning again to the girl, he answered, with a 
mournful smile : 

" Bid the cushion in that arm-chair do so. It 
will succeed better than I." Then crying out impa- 
tiently and as loudly as he could, " Now go — you 
know not how you torture me ! " he turned away 
from her and buried his face in the pillows. 

But Melissa, as if beside herself, laid her hands 
upon his shoulder, and, shaking him gently, ex- 
claimed : " And even if it vexes you, I will not be 
driven away thus. The misfortunes that have be- 
fallen you in these days will end by destroying you, 
if you will not pull yourself together. We must 



A THORNY PATH. 



73 



have patience, and it can only come about slowly, 
but you must make an effort. The least thing that 
pains you hurts us too, and you, in return, may not 
remain indifferent to what we feel. See, Philip, our 
mother and Andrew taught us often not to think 
only of ourselves, but of others. We ask so little 
of you ; but if you — " 

At this the philosopher shook himself free of her 
hand, and cried in a voice of anguish : 

" Away, I say ! Leave me alone ! One word 
more, and I die ! " With this he hid his head in the 
coverlet, and Melissa could see how his limbs quiv- 
ered convulsively as if shaken by an ague. 

To see a being so dear to her thus utterly 
broken down cut her to the heart. Oh, that she 
could help him ! If she did not succeed, or if he 
never found strength to rouse himself, he, too, would 
be one of Caesar's victims. Corrupted and ruined 
lives marked the path of this terrible being, and, 
with a shudder, she asked herself when her turn 
would come. 

Her hair had become disordered, and as she 
smoothed it she looked in the mirror, and could not 
but observe that in the simple but costly white robe 
of the dead Korinna she looked like a maiden of no- 
ble birth rather than the lowly daughter of an artist. 
She would have liked to tear it off and replace it by 
another, but her one modest festival robe had been 
left behind at the house of the lady Berenike. To 
appear in broad daylight before the neighbors or 
to walk in the streets clad in this fashion seemed to 
her impossible after her brother's unjust suspicion, 
and she bade Argutis fetch her a litter. 

When they parted, Dido could see distinctly that 
Philip had wounded her. And she could guess 
how, so she withheld any questions, that she might 



74 A THORNY PATH. 

not hurt her. Over the fire, however, she stabbed 
fiercely into the fowl destined for the philoso- 
pher, but cooked it, nevertheless, with all possible 
care. 

On the way to the Serapeum, Melissa's anxiety 
increased. Till now, eagerness for the fray, fear, 
hope, and the joyful consciousness of right-doing, 
had alternated in her mind. Now, for the first 
time, she was seized with a premonition of misfor- 
tune. Fate itself had turned against her. Even 
should she succeed in escaping, she could not hope 
to regain her lost peace of mind. 

Philip's biting words had shown her what most 
of them must think of her; and, though the ship 
should bear her far away, would it be right to bring 
Diodoros away from his old father to follow her ? 
She must see her lover, and if possible tell him all. 
The rose, too, which the Christian had given her for 
him, and which lay in her lap, she wished so much 
to Cjfcrry to him herself. She could not go alone to 
the chamber of the convalescent, and the attend- 
ance of a slave counted for nothing in the eyes of 
other people. It was even doubtful if a bonds- 
man might be admitted into the inner apartments of 
the sanctuary. However, she would, she must see 
Diodoros and speak to him; and thus planning 
ways and means by which to accomplish this, look- 
ing forward joyfully to the meeting with her father, 
and wondering how Agatha, the Christian, had re- 
ceived Alexander, she lost the feeling of deep de- 
pression which had weighed on her when she had 
left the house. 

The litter stopped, and Argutis helped her to de- 
scend. He was breathless, for it had been most 
difficult to open a way for her through the dense 
crowds that were already thronging to the Circus, 



A THORNY PATH. 



75 



where the grand evening performance in honor of 
the emperor was to begin as soon as it was dark. 

Just as she was entering the house, she perceived 
Andreas coming toward them along the street of 
Hermes, and she at once bade the slave call him. 
He was soon at her side, and declared himself will- 
ing to accompany her to Diodoros. . 

This time, however, she did not find her lover 
alone in the sick-room. Two physicians were with 
him, and she grew pale as she recognized in one of 
them the emperor's Roman body-physician. 

But it was too late too escape detection ; so she 
only hastened to her lover's side, whispered warm 
words of love in his ear, and, while she gave him the 
rose, conjured him ever and always to have faith 
in her and in her love, whatever reports he might 
hear. 

Diodoros was up and had fully recovered. His 
face lighted up with joy as he saw her ; but, when 
she repeated the old, disquieting request, he anxiously 
begged to know what she meant by it. She assured 
him, however, that she had already delayed too long, 
and referred him to Andreas and the lady Euryale, 
who would relate to him what had befallen her and 
spoiled every happy hour she had. Then, thinking 
herself unobserved by those present, she breathed a 
kiss upon his lips. But ^he would not let her go, 
urging with passionate tenderness his rights as her 
betrothed, till she tore herself away from him and 
hurried from the room. 

As she left, she heard a ringing laugh, followed 
by loud, sprightly talking. It was not her lover's 
voice, and endeavoring, while she waited for An- 
dreas, to catch what was being said on the other 
side of the door, she distinctly heard the body-phy- 
sician (for no other pronounced the Greek Ian- 



76 



A THORNY PATH. 



guage in that curious, halting manner) exclaim, gay« 
ly : " By Cerberus, young man, you are to be en- 
vied! The beauty my sovereign lord is limping 
after flies unbidden into your arms ! " 

Then came loud laughter as before, but this time 
interrupted by Diodoros's indignant question as to 
what this all meant. At last Melissa heard Andreas's 
deep voice promising the young man to tell him 
everything later on ; and when the convalescent im- 
patiently asked for an immediate explanation, the 
Christian exhorted him to be calm, and finally re- 
quested the physician to grant him a few moments* 
conversation. 

Then there was quiet for a time in the room, 
only broken by Diodoros's angry questions and the 
pacifying exclamations of the freedman. She felt 
as if she must return to her lover and tell him her- 
self what she had been forced to do in these last 
days, but maidenly shyness restrained her, till at 
last Andreas came out.- The freedman's honest 
face expressed the deepest solicitude, and his voice 
sounded rough and hasty as he exclaimed, " You 
must fly — fly this day ! " 

" And my father and brother, and Diodoros ? " 
she asked, anxiously. But he answered, urgently : 

" Let them get away as they may. There is no 
hole or corner obscure enough to keep you hidden. 
Therefore take advantage of the ship that waits for 
you. Follow Argutis at once to the lady Berenike. 
I can not accompany you, for it lies with me to oc- 
cupy for the next few hours the attention of the 
body-physician, from whom you have the most to 
fear. He has consented to go with me to my gar- 
den across the water. There I promised him a de- 
licious, real Alexandrian feast, and you know how 
gladly Polybius will seize the opportunity to share it 



A THORNY PATH. 



77 



with him. No doubt, too, some golden means may 
be found to bind his tongue ; for woe to you if Car- 
acaila discovers prematurely that you are promised 
to another, and woe then to your betrothed ! After 
sundown, when every one here has gone to the Cir- 
cus, I will take Diodoros to a place of safety. Fare- 
well, child, and may our heavenly Father defend 
you ! " 

He laid his right hand upon her head as if in 
blessing ; but Melissa cried, wringing her hands : 
"Oh, let me go to him once more! How can I 
leave him and go far away without one word of 
farewell or of forgiveness ? " 

But Andreas interrupted her, saying : " You can 
not. His life is at stake as well as your own. I 
shall make it my business to look after his safety. 
The wife of Seleukus will assist you in your flight." 

" And you will persuade him to trust me ? '* urged 
Melissa, clinging convulsively to his arm. 

" I will try,'* answered the freedman, gloomily. 
Melissa, dropped his arm, for loud, manly voices 
were approaching down the stairs near which they 
stood. 

It was Heron and Alexander, returning from 
their audience with the emperor. Instantly the 
Christian went to meet them, and dismissed the 
temple servant who accompanied them. 

In the half-darkness of the corridor, Melissa 
threw herself weeping into her father's arms. But 
he stroked her hair lovingly, and kissed her more 
tenderly on brow and eyes than he had ever done 
before, whispering gayly to her : " Dry your tears, 
my darling. You have been a brave maiden, and 
now comes your reward. Fear and sorrow will now 
be changed into happiness and power, and all the 
glories of the world. I have not even told Alexan- 



78 A THORNY PATH. 

der yet what promises to make our fortunes, for I 
know my duty." Then, raising his voice, he said 
to the freedman, ** If I have been rightly informed, 
we shall find the son of Polybius in one of the 
apartments close at hand." 

" Quite right," answered the freedman, gravely, 
and then went on to explain to the gem-cutter that 
he could ^ not see Diodoros just now, but must in- 
stantly leave the country with his son and daughter 
on Berenike's ship. Not a moment was to be lost. 
Melissa would tell him all on the way. 

But Heron laughed scornfully : " That would 
be a pretty business ! We have plenty of time, and, 
with the greatness that lies before us, everything 
must be done openly and in the right way. My 
first thought, you see, was to come here, for I had 
promised the girl to Diodoros, and he must be in- 
formed before 1 can consent to her betrothal to 
another." 

** Father ! " cried Melissa, scarcely able to com- 
mand her voice. But Heron took no notice of her, 
and continued, composedly : " Diodoros would have 
been dear to me as a son-in-law. I shall certainly 
tell him so. But when Caesar, the ruler of the world, 
condescends to ask a plain man for his daughter, 
every other consideration must naturally be put 
aside. Diodoros is sensible, and is sure to see it in 
the right light. We all know how Caesar treats 
those who are in his way ; but I wish the son of 
Polybius no ill, so I forbore to betray to Caesar what 
tie had once bound you, my child, to the gallant 
youth." 

Heron had never liked the freedman. The man's 
firm character had always gone against the gem- 
cutter's surly, capricious nature ; and it was no little 
satisfaction to him to let him feel his superiority, 



A THORNY PATH. 79 

and boast before him of the apparent good luck that 
had befallen the artist's family. 

But Andreas had already heard from the physi- 
cian that Caracalla had informed his mother's en- 
voys of his intended marriage with an Alexandrian, 
the daughter of an artist of Macedonian extraction. 
This could only refer to Melissa, and it was this 
news which had caused him to urge the maiden to 
instant flight. 

Pale, incapable of uttering a word, Melissa stood 
before her father; but the freedman grasped her 
hand, looked Heron reproachfully in the face, and 
asked, quietly, " And you would really have the 
heart to join this dear child's life to that of a bloody 
tyrant ? " 

" Certainly I have," returned Heron with decis- 
ion, and he drew his daughter's hand out of that of 
Andreas, who turned his back upon the artist with 
a meaning shrug of the shoulders. But Melissa ran 
after him, and, clinging to him, cried as she turned 
first to him and then to her father : 

" I am promised to Diodoros, and shall hold 
fast to him and my love; tell him that, Andreas! 
Come what may, I will be his and his alone! 
Caesar — " 

" Swear not ! " broke in Heron, angrily, " for by 
great Serapis — " 

But Alexander interposed between them, and 
begged his father to consider what he was asking 
of the girl. Caesar's proposals could scarcely have 
been very pleasing to him, or why had he concealed 
till now what Caracalla was whispering to him in 
the adjoining room? He might imagine for him- 
self what fate awaited the helpless child at the side 
of a husband at whose name even men trembled. 
He should remember her mother, and what she 



8o A THORNY PATH, 

would have said to such a union. There was little 
time to escape from this terrible wooer. 

Then Melissa turned to her brother and begged 
him earnestly : " Then you take me to the ship 
Alexander ; take charge of me yourself ! " 

" And I ? " asked Heron, his eye cast gloomily 
on the ground, 

" You must come with us ! " implored the girl, 
clasping her hands. — " O Andreas ! say something ! 
Tell him what I have to expect ! " 

" He knows that without my telling him," replied 
the freedman. — " I must go now, for two lives are 
at stake, Heron. If I can not keep the physician 
away from Caesar, your daughter, too, will be in 
danger. If you desire to see your daughter for- 
ever in fear of death, give her in marriage to Cara- 
calla. If you have her happiness at heart, then 
escape with her into a far country." 

He nodded to the brother and sister, and returned 
to the sick-room. 

" Fly ! — escape ! " repeated the old man, and he 
waived his hand angrily. " This Andreas — the freed- 
man, the Christian — always in extremes. Why run 
one's head against the wall ? First consider, then 
act; that was what she taught us whose sacred 
memory you have but now invoked, Alexander." 

With this he walked out of the half-dark corri- 
dor into the open court-yard, in front of his chil- 
dren. Here he looked at his daughter, who was 
breathing fast, and evidently prepared to resist to 
the last. And as he beheld her in Korinna's white 
and costly robes, like a noble priestess, it occurred 
to him that even before his captivity she had ceased 
to be the humble, unquestioning instrument of his 
capricious temper. Into what a haughty beauty the 
quiet embroideress had been transformed ! 



A THORNY PATH. 8 1 

By all the gods ! Caracalla had no cause to be 
ashamed of such an empress. 

And, unaccustomed as he was to keep back any- 
thing whatever from his children, he began to ex- 
press these sentiments. But he did not get far, for 
the hour for the morning meal being just over, the 
court-yard began to fill from all sides with officials 
and servants of the temple. So, father and son 
silently followed the maiden through the crowded 
galleries and apartments, into the house of the high- 
priest. 

Here they were received by Philostratus, who 
hardly gave Melissa time to greet the lady Euryale 
before he informed her, but with unwonted hurry 
and excitement, that the emperor was awaiting her 
with impatience. 

The philosopher motioned to her to follow him, 
but she clung, as if seeking help, to her brother, and 
cried : " I will not go again to Caracalla ! You are 
the kindest and best of them all, Philostratus, and 
you will understand me. Evil will come of it if I 
follow you — I can not go again to Caesar." 

But it was impossible for the courtier to yield to 
her, in the face of his monarch's direct commands ; 
therefore, hard as it was to him, he said, resolutely : 
" I well understand what holds you back ; still, if 
you would not ruin yourself and your family, you 
must submit. Besides which, you know not what 
Caesar is about to offer you — fortunate, unhappy 
child ! " 

"I know — oh, I know it!" sobbed Melissa; "but 
it is just that ... I have served the emperor will- 
ingly, but before I consent become the wife of such 
a monster — " 

" She is right," broke in Euryale, and drew Me- 
lissa toward her. But the philosopher took the 

30 



82 A THORNY PATH. 

girl's hand and said, kindly : " You must come with 
me now, my child, and pretend that you know noth- 
ing of Caesar's intentions toward you. It is the 
only way to save you. But while you are with the 
emperor, who, in any case, can devote but a short 
time to you to-day, I will return here and consult 
with your people. There is much to be decided, of 
the greatest moment, and not to you alone." 

Melissa turned with tearful eyes to Euryale, and 
questioned her with a look; whereupon the lady 
drew the girl's hand out of that of the philosopher, 
and saying to him, " She shall be with you directly," 
took her away to her own apartment. 

Here she begged Melissa to dry her eyes, and ar- 
ranging the girl's hair and robe with her own hands, 
she promised to do all in her power to facilitate her 
flight. She must do her part now by going into 
Caesar's presence as frankly as she had done yester- 
day and the day before. She might be quite easy ; 
her interests were being faithfully watched over. 

Taking a short leave of her father, who was 
looking very sulky because nobody seemed to care 
for his opinion, and of Alexander, who lovingly 
promised her his help, she took the philosopher's 
hand and walked with him through one crowded 
apartment after another. They often had difficulty 
in pressing through the throng of people who were 
waiting for an audience, and in the antechamber, 
where the Aurelians had had to pay so bitterly for 
their insolence yesterday, they were detained by the 
blonde and red-haired giants of the Germanian 
body-guard, whose leader, Sabinus, a Thracian of 
exceptional height and strength, was acquainted 
with the philosopher. 

Caracalla had given orders that no one was to 
be admitted till the negotiations with the Parthian 



A THORNY PATH. 83 

ambassadors, which had begun an hour ago, were 
brought to a conclusion, Philostratus well knew 
that the emperor would interrupt the most impor- 
tant business if Melissa were announced, but there 
was much that he would have the maiden lay to 
heart before he led her to the monarch ; while she 
wished for nothing so earnestly as that the door 
which separated her from her terrible wooer might 
remain closed to the end of time. When the cham- 
berlain Adventus looked out from the imperial 
apartments, she begged him to give her a little time 
before announcing her. 

The old man blinked consent with his dim eyes, 
but the philosopher took care that Melissa should 
not be left to herself and the terrors of her heart. 
He employed all the eloquence at his command to 
make her comprehend what it meant to be an em- 
press and the consort of the ruler of the world. 
In flaming colors he painted to her the good she 
might do in such a position, and the tears she might 
wipe away. Then he reminded her of the healing 
and soothing influence she had over Caracalla, and 
that this influence came doubtless from the gods, 
since it passed the bounds of nature and acted so 
beneficently. No one might reject such a gift 
from the immortals merely to gratify an ordinary 
passion. The youth whose love she must give up 
would be able to comfort himself with the thought 
that many others had had much worse to bear, and 
he would find no difficulty in getting a substitute, 
though not so beautiful a one. On the other hand, 
she was the only one among millions whose heart, 
obedient to a heaven-sent impulse, had turned 
in pity toward Caracalla. If she fled, she would 
deprive the emperor of the only being on whose 
love he felt he had some claim. If she listened to 



84 A THORNY PATH. 

the wooing of her noble lover, she would be able to 
tame this ungovernable being and soothe his fury, 
and would gain in return for a sacrifice such as 
many had made before her, the blissful conscious- 
ness of having rendered an inestimable service to 
the whole world. For by her means and her love, 
the imperial tyrant would be transformed into a be- 
neficent ruler. The blessing of the thousands whom 
she could protect and save would make the hardest 
task sweet and endurable. 

Here Philostratus paused, and gazed inquiringly 
at her ; but she only shook her head gently, and an- 
swered : 

" My brain is so confused that I can scarcely 
hear even, but I feel that your words are well meant 
and wise. What you put before me would certainly 
be worth considering if there were anything left for 
me to consider about. I have promised myself to 
another, who is more to me than all the world — 
more than the gratitude and blessings of endan- 
gered lives of which I know nothing. I am but a 
poor girl who only asks to be happy. Neither gods 
nor men expect more of me than that I should do 
my duty toward those whom I love. And, then, 
who can say for certain that I should succeed in 
persuading Caesar to carry out my desires, what- 
ever they might be ? *' 

" We were witnesses of the power you exercised 
over him," replied the philosopher; but Melissa 
shook her head, and continued eagerly : " No, no ! 
he only values in me the hand that eases his pain 
and want of sleep. The love which he may feel for 
me makes him neither gentler nor better. Only an 
hour or two before he declared that his heart was 
inclined to me, he had Titianus murdered ! " 

" One word from you," the philosopher assured 



A THORNY PATH. 85 

her, " and it would never have happened. As em- 
press, they will obey you as much as him. Truly, 
child, it is no small thing to sit, like the gods, far 
above the rest of mankind." 

" No, no ! " cried Melissa, shuddering. " Those 
heights ! Only to think of them makes everything 
spin round me. Only one who is free from such 
giddiness dare to occupy such a place. Every one 
must desire to do what he can do best. I could 
be a good housewife to Diodoros, but I should be 
a bad empress. I was not born to greatness. And, 
besides — what is happiness? I only felt happy 
when I did what was my duty, in peace and quiet. 
Were I empress, fear would never leave me for 
a moment. Oh, I know enough of the hideous ter- 
ror which this awful being creates around him ; and 
before I would consent to let it torture me to death 
by day and by night — morning, noon, and evening 
— far rather would I die this very day. Therefore, 
I have no choice. I must flee from Caesar's sight — 
away hence — far, far, away ! " 

Tears nearly choked her voice, but she struggled 
bravely against them. Philostratus, however, did 
not fail to observe it, and gazed, first mournfully 
into her face and then thoughtfully on the ground. 
At length he spoke with a slight sigh : 

" We gather experience in life, and yet, however 
old we may be, we act contrary to it. Now I have 
to pay for it. And yet it still lies in your hands to 
make me bless the day on which I spoke on your 
behalf. Could you but succeed in rising to real 
greatness of soul, girl — through you, I swear it, the 
subjects of this mighty kingdom would be saved 
from great tribulations ! " 

"But, my lord," Melissa broke in, "who would 
ask such lofty things of a lowly maiden ? My moth- 



86 A THORNY PATH. 

er taught me to be kind and helpful to others in the 
house, to my friends, and fellow-citizens ; my own 
heart tells me to be faithful to my betrothed. But 
I care not greatly for the Romans, and what to me 
are Gauls, Dacians, or whatever else these barba- 
rians may be called ? " 

"And yet," said Philostratus, "you offered a 
sacrifice for the foreign tyrant." 

" Because his pain excited my compassion," re- 
joined Melissa, blushing. 

" And would you have done the same for any 
masterless black slave, covered with pitiably deep 
wounds ? " asked the philosopher. 

" No," she answered, quickly ; " him I would 
have helped with my own hand. When I can do 
without their aid, I do not appeal to the gods. 
And then — I said before, his trouble seemed dou- 
bly great because it contrasted so sharply with all 
the splendor and joy that surrounded him." 

" Aye," said the philosopher, earnestly, " and a 
small thing that affects the ruler recoils tenfold — a 
thousand-fold — on his subjects. Look at one tree 
through a cut glass with many facets, and it be- 
comes a forest. Thus the merest trifle, when it af- 
fects the emperor, becomes important for the mill- 
ions over whom he rules. Caracalla's vexation en- 
tails evil on thousands — his anger is death and 
ruin. I fear me, girl, your flight will bring down 
heavy misfortune on those who surround Caesar, 
and first of all upon the Alexandrians, to whom 
you belong, and against whom he already bears a 
grudge. You once said your native city was dear 
to you." 

"So it is," returned Melissa, who, at his last 
words had grown first red and then pale ; " but Cae- 
sar can not surely be so narrow-minded as to pun- 



A THORNY PATH. 8/ 

ish a whole great city for what the poor daughter 
of a gem-cutter has done." 

"You are thinking of my Achilles/' answered 
the philosopher. " But I only transferred what I 
saw of good in Caracalla to the figure of my hero. 
Besides, you know that Caesar is not himself when 
he is in wrath. Has not experience taught me that 
no reasons are strong enough to convince a loving 
woman's heart? Once more I entreat you^ stay 
here ! Reject not the splendid gift which the gods 
offer you, that trouble may not come upon your city 
as it did on hapless Troy, all for a woman's sake. 
What says the proverb ? * Zeus hearkens not to 
lovers' vows ' ; but I say that to renounce love in 
order to make others happy, is greater and harder 
than to hold fast to it when it is menaced." 

These words reminded her of many a lesson of 
Andreas, and went to her heart. In her mind's eye 
she saw Caracalla, after hearing of her flight, set 
his lions on Philostratus, and then, foaming with 
rage, give orders to drag her father and brothers, 
Polybius and his son, to the place of execution, like 
Titianus. And Philostratus perceived what was 
going on in her mind, and with the exhortation, 
" Remember how many persons' weal or woe lies in 
your hands ! " he rose and began a conversation 
with the Thracian commander of the Germanic 
guard. 

Melissa remained alone upon the divan. The 
picture changed before her, and she saw herself in 
costly purple raiment, glittering with jewels, and 
seated by the emperor's side in a golden chariot. 
A thousand voices shouted to her, and beside her 
stood a horn of plenty, running over with golden so- 
lidi and crimson roses, and it never grew empty, 
however much she took from it. Her heart was 



88 A THORNY PATH. 

moved; and when, in the crowd which her lively 
imagination had conjured up before her, she caught 
sight of the wife of the blacksmith Herophilus, who 
had been thrown into prison through an accusation 
from Zminis, she turned to Caracalla whom she still 
imagined seated beside her, and cried, " Pardon ! " 
and Caracalla nodded a gracious consent, and the 
next moment Herophilus*s wife lay on her liberated 
husband's breast, while the broken fetters still 
clanked upon his wrists. Their children were there, 
too, and stretched up their arms to their parents, 
offering their happy lips first to them and then to 
Melissa. 

How beautiful it all was, and how it cheered her 
compassionate heart ! 

And this, said the newly awakened, meditative 
spirit within her, need be no dream ; no, it lay in 
her power to impart this happiness to herself and 
many others, day by day, until the end. 

Then she felt that she must arise and cry to her 
friend, " I will follow your counsel and remain ! " 

But her imagination had already begun to work 
again, and showed her the widow of Titianus, as she 
entreated Caesar to spare her noble, innocent hus- 
band, while he mercilessly repulsed her. And it 
flashed through her mind that her petitions might 
share the same fate, when at that moment the em- 
peror's threatening voice sounded from the adjoin- 
ing room. 

How hateful its strident tones were to her ear ! 
She dropped her eyes and caught sight of a dark 
stain on the snow-white plumage of the doves in the 
mosaic pavement at her feet. 

That was a last trace of the blood of the young 
tribune, which the attendants had been unable to 
remove. And this indelible mark of the crime which 



A THORNY PATH. 89 

she had witnessed brought the image of the wound- 
ed Aurelius before her : just as he now lay, shaken 
with fever, so had she seen her lover a few days 
before. His pale face rose before her inward sight ; 
would it not be to him a worse blow than that from 
the stone, when he should learn that she had bro- 
ken her faith to him in order to gain power and 
greatness, and to protect others, who were strangers 
to her, from the fury of the tyrant ? 

His heart had been hers from childhood's hour, 
and it would bleed and break if she were false to 
the vows in which he placed his faith. And even if 
he succeeded at last in recovering from the wound 
she must deal him, his peace and happiness would 
be destroyed for many a long day. How could she 
have doubted for a moment where her real duty 
lay? 

If she followed Philostratus's advice — if she ac- 
ceded to Caracalla*s wishes — Diodoros would have 
every right to condemn and curse her. And could 
she then feel so entirely blameless ? A voice within 
her instantly said no ; for there had been moments 
in which her pity had grown so strong that she felt 
more warmly toward the sick Caesar than was justi- 
fiable. She could not deny it, for she could not 
without a blush have described to her lover what 
she felt when that mysterious, inexplicable power 
had drawn her to the emperor. 

And now the conviction rapidly grew strong in 
her that she must not only preserve her lover from 
further trouble, but strive to make good to him her 
past errors. The idea of renouncing her love in 
order to intercede for others, most likely in vain, 
and lighten their lot by sacrificing herself for stran- 
gers, while rendering her own and her lover's life 
miserable, now seemed to her unnatural, criminal, 



90 



A THORNY PATH. 



impossible; and with a sigh of relief she remem- 
bered her promise to Andreas. Now she could 
once more look freely into the grave and earnest 
face of him who had ever guided her in the right 
way. 

This alone was right — this she would do ! 

But after the first quick step toward Philostra- 
tus, she stood still, once more hesitating. The say- 
ing about the fulfilling of the time recurred to her 
as she thought of the Christian, and she said to her- 
self that the critical moment which comes in every 
life was before her now. The weal or woe of her 
whole future depended on the answer she should 
give to Philostratus. The thought struck terror to 
her heart, but only for a moment. Then she drew 
herself up proudly, and, as she approached her 
friend, felt with joy that she had chosen the better 
part ; yea, that it would cost her but little to lay 
down her life for it. 

Though apparently absorbed in his conversation 
with the Thracian, Philostratus had not ceased to 
observe the girl, and his knowledge of human nature 
showed him quickly to what decision she had come. 
Firmly persuaded that he had won her over to Cara- 
calla's side, he had left her to her own reflections. 
He was certain that the seed he had sown in her mind 
would take root; she could now clearly picture to 
herself what pleasures she would enjoy as empress, 
and from what she could preserve others. For she 
was shrewd and capable of reasoning, and above 
all — and from this he hoped the most — she was 
but a woman. But just because she was a woman 
he could not be surprised at her disappointing him 
in his expectations. For the sake of Caracalla and 
those who surrounded him he would have wished it 
to be otherwise; but he had become too fond of 



A THORNY PATH. 



91 



her, and had too good a heart, not to be distressed 
at the thought of seeing her fettered to the un- 
bridled young tyrant. 

Before she could address him, he took his leave 
of the Thracian. Then, as he led her back to the 
divan, he whispered : ** Well, I have gained one 
more experience. The next time I leave a woman 
to come to a decision, I shall anticipate from the 
first that she will come to an opposite conclusion to 
that which, as a philosopher and logical thinker, I 
should expect of her. You are determined to keep 
faith with your betrothed and stab the heart of this 
highest of all wooers — after death he will be ranked 
among the gods — for such will be the eifect of your 
flight." 

Melissa nodded gayly, and rejoined, " The blunt 
weapon that I carry would surely not cost Caesar 
his life, even if he were no future immortal." 

** Scarcely," answered Philostratus ; "but what 
he may suffer through you will drive him to turn his 
own all-too-sharp sword against others. Caracalla 
being a man, my calculations regarding him have 
generally proved right. You will see how firmly I 
believe in them in this case, when I tell you that I 
have already taken advantage of a letter brought 
by the messengers of the empress-mother to take 
my leave of the emperor. For, I reasoned, if Me- 
lissa listens to the emperor, she will need no other 
confederate than the boy Eros; if, however,"^she 
takes flight — then woe betide those who are within 
range of the tyrant's arm, and ten times woe to me 
who brought the fugitive before his notice ! Early 
to-morrow,, before • Caracalla leaves his couch, I 
shall return with the messengers to Julia ; my place 
in the ship — " 

"O my lord," interrupted Melissa, in conster- 



92 



A THORNY PATH. 



nation, " if you, my kind protector, forsake me, to 
whom shall I look for help ? ** 

"You will not require it if you carry out your in- 
tentions," said the philosopher. " Throughout this 
day you will doubtless need me ; and let me impress 
upon you once more to behave before Caracalla in 
such a manner that even his suspicious mind may 
not guess what you intend to do. To-day you will 
still find me ready to help you. But, hark ! That is 
Csesar raging again. It is thus he loves to dismiss 
ambassadors, when he wishes they should clearly 
understand that their conditions are not agreeable 
to him. And one word more : When a man has 
grown gray, it is doubly soothing to his heart that a 
lovely maiden should so frankly regret the parting. 
I was ever a friend of your amiable sex, and even 
to this day Eros is sometimes not unfavorably in- 
clined to me. But you, the more charming you are, 
the more deeply do I regret that I may not be more 
to you than an old and friendly mentor. But pity 
at first kept love from speaking, and then the old 
truth that every woman's heart may be won save 
that which already belongs to another." 

The elderly admirer of the fair sex spoke these 
words in such a pleasant, regretful tone that Me- 
lissa gave him an affectionate glance from her 
large, bright eyes, and answered, archly : " Had 
Eros shown Philostratus the way to JSelissa instead 
of Diodoros, Philostratus might no^ be occupying 
the place in this heart which belongs to the son of 
Polybius, and which must always bejf^is in spite of 
Caesar ! " 






CHAPTER XXIV. 

The door of the tablinum flew open, and through 
it streamed the Parthian ambassadors, seven stately 
personages, wearing the gorgeous costume of their 
country, and followed by an interpreter and several 
scribes. Melissa noticed how one of them, a young 
warrior with a fair beard framing his finely molded, 
heroic face, and thick, curling locks escaping from 
beneath his tiara, grasped the hilt of his sword in 
his sinewy hand, and how his neighbor, a cautious, 
elderly man, was endeavoring to calm him. 

Scarcely had they left the antechamber than 
Ädventus called Melissa and Philostratus to the 
emperor. Caracalla was seated on a raised throne 
of gold and ivory, with bright scarlet cushions. As 
on the preceding day, he was magnificently dressed, 
and wore a laurel wreath on his head. The lion, 
who lay chained beside the throne, stirred as he 
caught sight of the new-comers, which caused Cara- 
calla to exclaim to Melissa: "You have stayed 
away from me so long that my * Sword of Persia ' 
fails to recognize you. Were it not more to my 
taste to show you how dear you are to me, I could 
be angry with you, coy bird that you are ! '* 

As Melissa bent respectfully before him, he gazed 
delighted into her glowing face, saying, as he turned 
half to her and half to Philostratus : " How she 
blushes! She is ashamed that, though I could get 



94 



A THORNY PATH. 



no sleep during the night, and was tortured by an 
indescribable restlessness, she refused to obey my 
call, although she very well knows that the one 
remedy for her sleepless friend lies in her beautiful 
little hand. Hush, hush ! The high-priest has told 
me that you did not sleep beneath the same roof as 
I. But that only turned my thoughts in the right 
direction. Child, child! — See now, Philostratus — 
the red rose has become a white one. And how 
timid she is ! Not that it offends me, far from it 
— it delights me. — Those flowers, Philostratus ! — 
Take them, Melissa ; they add less to your beauty 
than you to theirs." He seized the splendid roses 
he had ordered for her early that morning and 
fastened the finest in her girdle himself. She did 
not forbid him, and stammered a few low words of 
thanks. 

How his face glowed ! His eyes rested in ec 
static delight upon his chosen one. In this past 
night, after he had called for her and waited in vain 
with feverish longing for her coming, it had dawned 
on him with convincing force that this gentle child 
had awakened a new, intense passion in him. He 
loved her, and he was glad of it — he who till now had 
taken but a passing pleasure in beautiful women. 
Longing for her till it became torture, he swore to 
himself to make her his, and share his all with her, 
even to the purple. 

It was not his habit to hesitate, and at day- 
break he had sent for his mother's messengers that 
they might inform her of his resolve. No one dared 
to gainsay him, and he expected it least of all from 
her whom he designed to raise so high. But she 
felt utterly estranged from him, and would gladly 
have told him to his face what she felt. 

Still, it was absolutely necessary that she should 



A THORNY PATH. 95 

restrain herself and endure his insufferable endear- 
ments, and even force herself to speak. And yet 
her tongue seemed tied, and it was only by the ut- 
most effort of her will that she could bring herself 
to express her astonishment at his rapid return to 
health. 

** It is like magic," she concluded, and he heartily 
agreed. Attacks of that kind generally left their 
effects for four days or more. But the most aston- 
ishing thing was that in spite of being in the best 
of health, he was suffering from the gravest illness 
in the world. " I have fallen a victim to the fever 
of love, my Philostratus," he cried, with a tender 
glance at Melissa. 

" Nay, Caesar," interrupted the philosopher, " love 
is not a disease, but rather not loving." 

"Prove this new assertion," laughed the em- 
peror ; and the philosopher rejoined, with a mean- 
ing look at the maiden, " If love is born in the eyes, 
then those who do not love are blind." 

" But," answered Caracalla, gayly, " they say that 
love comes not only from what delights the eye, but 
the soul and the mind as well." 

"And have not the mind and the spirit eyes 
also ? " was the reply, to which the emperor heartily 
assented. 

Then he turned to Melissa, and asked with 
gentle reproach why she, who had proved herself so 
ready of wit yesterday, should be so reserved to- 
day ; but she excused her taciturnity on the score 
of the violent emotions that had stormed m upon 
her since the morning. 

Her voice broke at the end of this explanation, 
and Caracalla, concluding that it was the thought 
of the grandeur that awaited her through his favor 
which confused her and brought the delicate color 



96 



A THORNY PATH. 



to her cheeks, seized her hand, and, obedient to an 
impulse of his better nature, said : 

" I understand you, child. Things are befalling 
you that would make a stouter heart tremble. You 
have only heard hints of what must effect such a 
decisive change in your future life. You know how 
I feel toward you. I acknowledged to you yester- 
day what you already knew without words. We 
both feel the mysterious power that draws us to one 
another. We belong to each other. In the future, 
neither time nor space nor any other thing may 
part us. Where I am there you must be also. You 
shall be my equal in every respect. Every honor 
paid to me shall be offered to you likewise. I have 
shown the malcontents what they have to expect. 
The fate which awaits the consul Claudius Vindex 
and his nephew, who by their want of respect to 
you offended me, will teach the others to have a 



care." 



" O my lord, that aged man ! " cried Melissa, 
clasping her hands, imploringly. 

" He shall die, and his nephew," was the inexo- 
rable answer. " During my conference with my 
mother's messengers they had the presumption to 
raise objections against you and the ardent desire 
of my heart in a manner which came very near to 
being treason. And they must suffer for it." 

"You would punish them for my sake?" ex- 
claimed Melissa. " But I forgive them willingly. 
Grant them pardon ! I beg, I entreat you." 

" Impossible ! Unless I make an example, it 
will be long before the slanderous tongues would 
hold their peace. Their sentence stands." 

But Melissa would not be appeased. With pas- 
sionate eagerness she entreated the emperor to 
grant a pardon, but he cut her short with the request 



A THORNY PATH. 97 

not to interfere in matters which he alone had to 
decide and answer for. 

" I owe it to you as well as to myself," he con- 
tinued, " to remove every obstacle from the path. 
Were I to spare Vindex, they would never again 
believe in my strength of purpose. He shall die, and 
his nephew with him ! To raise a structure without 
first securing a solid foundation would be an act of 
rashness and folly. Besides, I undertake nothing 
without consulting the omens. The horoscope 
which the priest of this temple has drawn up for 
you only confirms me in my purpose. The examina- 
tion of the sacrifices this morning was favorable. 
It now only remains to be seen what the stars say 
to my resolve. I had not yet taken it when I last 
questioned the fortune-tellers of the sky. This . 
night we shall learn what future the planets promise 
to our union. From the signs on yonder tablet it is 
scarcely possible that their answer should be other- 
wise than favorable. But even should they warn 
me of misfortune at your side, I could not let you 
go now. It is too late for that. I should merely 
take advantage of the warning, and continue 
with redoubled severity to sweep away every ob- 
stacle that threatens our union. And one thing 
more — " 

But he did not finish, for Epagathos here re- 
minded him of the deputation of Alexandrian citi- 
zens who had come to speak about the garftes in the 
Circus. They had bieen waiting several hours, and 
had still many arrangements to make. 

" Did they send you to me ? " inquired Caracalla, 
with irritation, and the freedman answering in the 
affirmative, he cried : " The princes who wait in my 
antechamber do not stir until their turn comes. 
These tradesmen's senses are confused by the dazzle 

31 



98 



A THORNY PATH. 



of their gold ! Tell them they shall be called when 
we find time to attend to them." 

" The head of the night-watch too is waiting," said 
the freedman ; and to the emperor's question wheth- 
er he had seen him, and if he had anything of con- 
sequence to report, the other replied that the man 
was much disquieted, but seemed to be exercising 
proper severity. He ventured to remind his master 
of the saying that the Alexandrians must have 
Fanem et circenses ; they did not trouble themselves 
much about anything else. In these days, when 
there had been neither games, nor pageants, nor dis- 
tribution of corn, the Romans and Caesar had been 
their sole subjects of conversation. However, there 
was to be something quite unusually grand in the 
Circus to-night. That would distract the attention 
of the impudent slanderers. The night-watchman 
greatly desired to speak to the emperor himself, to 
prepare him for the fact that excitement ran higher 
in the Circus here than even in Rome. In spite of 
every precaution, he would not be able to keep the 
rabble in the upper rows quiet. 

" Nor need they be," broke in the emperor ; " the 
louder they shout the better ; and I fancy they will 
see things which will be worth shouting for. I have 
no time to see the man. Let him thoroughly real- 
ize that he is answerable for any real breach of 
order." 

He signed to Epagathos to retire, but Melissa 
went nearer to Caesar and begged him gently not 
to let the worthy citizens wait any longer on her 
account. 

At this Caracalla frowned ominously, and cried : 

" For the second time, let me ask you not to in- 
terfere in matters that do not concern you ! If any- 
one dares to order me — " Here he stopped short, 



A THORNY PATH. 



99 



for, as Melissa drew back from him frightened, he 
was conscious of having betrayed that even love 
was not strong enough to make him control himself. 
He was angry with himself, and with a great effort 
he went on, niore quietly : 

" When I give an order, my child, there often 
lies much behind it of which I alone know. Those 
who force themselves upon Caesar, as these citizens 
do, must learn to have patience. And you — if you 
would fill the position to which I intend to raise 
you — must first take care to leave all paltry con- 
siderations and doubts behind you. However, all 
that will come of itself. Softness and mercy melt 
on the throne like ice before the sun. You will 
soon learn to scorn this tribe of beggars who come 
whining round us. If I flew in a passion just now, 
it was partly your fault. I had a right to expect 
that you would be more eager to hear me out than 
to shorten the time of waiting for these miserable 
merchants." 

With this his voice grew rough again, but as she 
raised her eyes to him and cried beseechingly, " O, 
my lord 1 " he continued, more gently : 

** There was not much more to be said. You 
shall be mine. Should the stars confirm their first 
revelations, I shall raise you to-morrow to my side, 
here in the city of Alexandria, and make the people 
do homage to you as their empress. The priest of 
Alexandria is ready to conduct the marriage cere- 
monial. Philostratus will inform my mother of my 
determination." 

Melissa had listened to these arrangements with 
growing distress ; her breath came fast, and she was 
incapable of uttering a word ; but Caesar was de- 
lighted at the lovely confusion painted on her feat- 
ures, and cried, in joyful excitement : 



lOO A THORNY PATH. 

" How I have looked forward to this moment 
— and I have succeeded in surprising her ! This is 
what makes imperial power divine; by one wave 
of the hand it can raise the lowest to the highest 
place ! " 

With this he drew Melissa toward him, kissed 
the trembling girl upon the brow, and continued, in 
delighted tones : 

"Time does not stand still, and only a few 
hours separate us frbm- the accomplishment of our 
desires. Let us lend them wings. We resolved 
yesterday to show onj? another what we could do 
as singers and lute-players. There lies my lyre — 
give it me, Pbilostratu§. * I know what I shall begin 
with." 

The philosopher brought and tuned the instru- 
ment ; but Melissa had some difficulty in keeping 
back her tears. Caracalla's kiss burned like a brand 
of infamy on her brow. A nameless, torturing rest- 
lessness had come over her, and she wished she could 
dash the lyre to the ground, when Caracalla began 
to play, and called out to Philostratus : 

" As you are leaving us to-morrow, I will sing 
the song which you honored with a place in your 
heroic tale." 

He turned to Melissa, and, as she owned to hav- 
ing read the work of the philosopher, he went on : 
" You know, then, that I was the model for his Achil- 
les. The departed spirit of the hero is enjoying in 
the island of Leuke, in the Pontus, the rest which he 
so richly deserves, after a life full of heroic deeds. 
Now he finds time to sing to the lyre, and Philos- 
tratus put the following verses — but they are mine 
— into his mouth. — I am about to play, Adventus ! 
Open the door ! " 

The freedman obeyed, and the emperor peered 



A THORNY PATH. loi 

into the antechamber to see for himself who was 
waiting there. 

He required an audience when he sang. The 
Circus had accustomed him to louder applause than 
his beloved and one skilled musician could award 
him. At last he swept the strings, and began sing- 
ing in a well-trained tenor, whose sharp, hard qual- 
ity, however, offended the girl's critical ear, the 
song to the echo on the shores of Pontus : 

Echo, by the rolling waters 
Bathing Pontus' rocky shore, 
Wake, and answer to the lyre 
Swept by my inspired hand ! 

Wake, and raise thy voice in numbers ; 
Sing to Homer, to the bard 
Who has given life immortal 
To the heroes of his lay. 

He it was from death who snatched mc ; 
He who gave Patroclus life ; 
Rescued, in perennial glory, 
Godlike Ajax from the dead ! — 

His the lute to whose sweet accents, 
Ilion owes undying fame. 
And the triumph and the praises 
Which surround her deathless name. 

The " Sword of Persia " seemed peculiarly affect- 
ed by his master's song, which he accompanied by a 
long-drawn howl of woe ; and, before the imperial 
virtuoso had concluded, a discordant cry sounded 
for a short time from the street, in imitation of the 
squeaking of young pigs. It arose from the crowd 
who were waiting round the Serapeum to see Caesar 
drive to the Circus ; and Caracalla must have no- 
ticed it, for, when it waxed louder, he gave a side- 
long glance toward the place from which it came, 
and an ominous frown gathered upon his brow. 



102 A THORNY PATH. 

But it soon vanished, for scarcely had he finished 
when stormy shouts of applause rose from the ante- 
chamber. They proceeded from the friends of Cae- 
sar, and the deep voices of the Germanic body- 
guard, who, joining in with the cries they had 
learned in the Circus, lent such impetuous force to 
the applause, as even to satisfy this artist in the 
purple. 

Therefore, when Philostratus spoke words of 
praise, and Melissa thanked him with a blush, he 
answered with a smile : " There is something frank 
and untrammeled in their manner of expressing 
their feelings outside. Forced applause sounds 
differently. There must be something in my sing- 
ing that carries the hearers away. My Alexandrian 
hosts, however, are overready to show me what 
they think. It did not escape me, and I shall add 
it to the rest." 

Then he invited Melissa to make a return for 
his song by singing Sappho's Ode to Aphrodite. 

Pale, and as if obeying some strange compulsion, 
she seated herself at the instrument, and the pre- 
lude sounded clear and tuneful from her skillful 
fingers. 

" Beautiful ! Worthy of Mesomedes ! *' cried 
Caracalla, but Melissa could not sing, for at the 
first note her voice was broken by stormy sobs. 
** The power of the goddess whom she meant to ex- 
tol ! " said Philostratus, pointing to her ; and the tear- 
ful, beseeching look with which she met the emper- 
or's gaze while she begged him in low tones — " Not 
now ! I can not do it to-day ! " — confirmed Caracalla 
in his opinion that the passion he had awakened in 
the maiden was in no way inferior to his own — per- 
haps even greater. He relieved his full heart by 
whispering to Melissa a passionate, " I love you," 



^ A THORNY PATH. IO3 

and, desiring to show her by a favor how kindly he 
felt toward her, added : " I will not let your fellow- 
citizens wait outside any longer — Adventus ! The 
deputation from the Circus ! " 

The chamberlain withdrew at once, and the em- 
peror throwing himself back on the throne, contin- 
ued, with a sigh : 

" I wonder how any of these rich tradesmen 
would like to undertake what I have already gone 
through this day. First, the bath ; then, while I rest- 
ed, Macrinus's report ; after that, the inspection of 
the sacrifices ; then a review of the troops, with a 
gracious word to every one. Scarcely returned, I 
had to receive the ambassadors from my mother, 
and then came the jtroublesome affair with Vindex. 
Then the dispatches from Rome arrived, the let- 
ters to be examined, and each one to be decided on 
and signed. Finally the settling of accounts with 
the idiologos, who, as high-priest of my choosing, 
has to collect the tribute from all the temples in 
Egypt. . . . Next I gave audience to several peo- 
ple — to your father among the rest. He is strange, 
but a thorough man, and a true Macedonian of the 
old stock. He repelled both greeting and pres- 
ents, but he longed to be revenged — heavily and 
bloodily — on Zminis, who denounced him and 
brought him to the galleys. . . . How the old fellow 
must have raged and stormed when he was a pris- 
oner ! I treated the droll old gray-beard like my 
father. The giant pleases me, and what skillful 
fingers he has on his powerful hands ! He gave me 
that ring with the portraits of Castor and Pollux." 

" My brothers were the models," remarked Me- 
lissa, glad to find something to say without dissem- 
bling. 

Caracalla examined the stone in the gold ring 



I04 



A THORNY PATH. 



more closely, and exclaimed in admiration : " How 
delicate the little heads are ! At the first glance one 
recognizes the hand of the happily gifted artist. 
Your father's is one of the noblest and most refined 
of the arts. If I can raise a statue to a lute-player, 
I can do so to a gem-cutter." 

Here the deputation for the arrangement of the 
festival was announced, but the emperor, calling 
out once more, " Let them wait," continued: 

" You are a handsome race — the men powerful, 
the women as lovely as Aphrodite. That is as it 
should be ! My father before me took the wisest 
and fairest woman to wife. You are the fairest — the 
wisest ? — well, that too, perhaps. Time will show. 
But Aphrodite never has a high forehead, and, ac- 
cording to Philostratus, beauty and wisdom are hos- 
tile sisters with you women." 

" Exceptions," interposed the philosopher, as he 
pointed to Melissa, " prove the rule." 

•* Describe her in that manner to my mother," 
said Caracalla. " I would not let you go from me, 
were you not the only person who knows Melissa. 
I may trust in your eloquence to represent her as 
she deserves. And now," he continued, hurriedly, 
"one thing more. As soon as the deputation is 
dismissed and I have received a few other persons, 
the feast is to begin. You would perhaps be enter- 
tained at it. However, it will be better to intro- 
duce you to my * friends * after the marriage cere- 
mony. After dark, to make up for it, there is the 
Circus, to which you will, of course, accompany 



me. 



" Oh, my lord ! " exclaimed the maiden, fright- 
ened and unwilling. But Caracalla cried, decisively : 
" No refusal, I must beg ! I imagine that I have 
proved sufficiently that I know how to shield you 



A THORNY PATH. 



105 



from what is not fitting for a maiden. What I ask 
of you now is but the first step on the new path of 
honor that awaits you as future empress." 

Melissa raised both voice and hands in entreaty, 
but in vain. Caracalla cut her short, saying in au- 
thoritative tones : 

"I have arranged everything. You will go to 
the Circus. Not alone with me — that would give 
welcome work to scandalous tongues. Your father 
shall accompany you — your brothers, too, if you 
wish it. I shall not join you till after the perform- 
ance has begun. Your fellow-citizens will divine 
the meaning of this visit. Besides, Theocritus and 
the rest have orders to acquaint the people with the 
distinction that awaits you and the Alexandrians. 
But why so pale ? Your cheeks will regain their color 
in the Circus. I know I am right — you will leave 
it delighted and enthralled. You have only to learn 
for the first time how the acclamations of tens of 
thousands take hold upon the heart and intoxicate 
the senses. Courage, courage, Macedonian maiden ! 
Everything grand and unexpected, even unfore- 
seen happiness, is alarming and bewildering. But 
we become accustomed even to the impossible. A 
strong spirit like yours soon gets over anything of 
the kind. But the time is running on. One word 
more : You must be in the Circus by sunset. In 
any case, you must be in your place before I come. 
Adventus will see that you have a chariot or a litter, 
whichever you please. Theocritus will be waiting 
at the entrance to lead you to your seats." 

Melissa could restrain herself no longer, and, car- 
ried away by the wild conflict of passions in her 
breast, she threw control and prudence to the winds, 
and cried : 

" I will not ! " Then throwing back her head as 



I06 A THORNY PATH. 

if to call the heavens to witness, she raised her 
great, wide-open eyes and gazed above. 

But not for long. Her bold defiance had roused 
Caesar's utmost fury, and he broke out with a growl 
of rage.: 

"You will not, you say? And you think, un- 
reasoning fool, that this settles the matter ? " 

He uttered a wild laugh, pressed his hand firmly 
on his left eyelid, which began to twitch convul- 
sively, and went on in a lower but defiantly con- 
temptuous tone : 

" I know better ! You shall ! And you will not 
only go to the Circus, but you will do it willingly, or 
at least with smiling lips. You will start at sunset ! 
At the time appointed I shall find you in your place. 
If not ! — Must I begin so soon to teach you that I 
can be serious ? Have a care, girl ! You are dear 
to me ; yet — by the head of my father ! — if you defy 
me, my Numidian lion-keepers shall drag you to the 
place you belong to ! " 

Thus far Melissa had listened to the emperor's 
raging with panting bosom and quivering nostrils, 
as at a performance, which must sooner or later 
come to an end ; and now she broke in regardless 
of the consequences : 

"Send for them," she cried, "and order them to 
throw me to the wild beasts ! It will doubtless be a 
welcome surprise to the lookers-on. Which of them 
can say they have ever seen the daughter of a free 
Roman citizen who never yet came before the law, 
torn to pieces in the sand of the arena ? They de- 
light in anything new ! Yes, murder me, as you did 
Plautilla, although I never offended either you or 
your mother! Better die a hundred deaths than 
parade my dishonor before the eyes of the multitude 
in the open Circus ! ** 



A THORNY PATH. 



107 



She ceased, incapable of further resistance, threw 
herself weeping on the divan, and buried her face in 
the cushions. 

Confounded and bewildered by such audacity, 
the emperor had heard her out. The soul of a hero 
dwelt in the frail body of this maiden ! Majestic as 
all-conquering Venus she had resisted him for the 
second time, and now how touching did she ap- 
pear in her tears and weakness ! He loved her, and 
his heart yearned to raise her in his arms, to beg her 
forgiveness, and fulfill her every wish. But he was 
a man and a monarch, and his desire to show Me- 
lissa to the people in the Circus as his chosen bride 
had become a fixed resolve during the past sleepless 
night. And indeed he was incapable of renouncing 
any wish or a plan, even if he felt inclined to do so. 
Yet he heartily regretted having stormed at the 
gentle Greek girl like some wild barbarian, and thus 
himself thrown obstacles in the way of attaining his 
desire. His hot blood had carried him away again. 
Surely some demon led him so often into excesses 
which he afterward repented of. This time the 
fiend had been strong in him, and he must use every 
gentle persuasion he knew of to bend the deeply 
offended maiden to his will. 

He was relieved not to meet her intense gaze as 
he advanced toward her and took Philostratus's 
place, who whispered to her to control herself and 
not bring death and ruin upon them all. 

"Truly I meant well toward you, dearest," he 
began, in altered tones. "But we are both like 
overfull vessels — one drop will make them over- 
flow. You — confess now that you forgot yourself. 
And I — On the throne we grow unaccustomed 
to opposition. It is fortunate that the flame of my 
anger dies out so quickly. But it lies with you to 



I08 A THORNY PATH. 

prevent it from ever breaking out; for I should 
always endeavor to fulfill a kindly expressed wish, , 
if it were possible. This time, however, I must in- 
sist—" 

Melissa turned toward the emperor, and stretch- 
ing out beseeching hands, she cried : 

** Bid me do anything, however hard, and it shall 
be done, but do not force me to go with you to the 
Circus. If my mother were only alive ! Wherever 
I could go with her was right. But my father, not 
to speak of my madcap . brother Alexander, do not 
know what befits a mätden, nor does anybody ex- 
pect it of them." 

"And rightly," interposed Caracalla. " Now I 
understand your opposition, and thiank you for it. 
But it fortunately lies in my power to ittaQwe your 
objection. The women have to obiey/oae^-too. I 
shall at once issue the necessary orders'. Ybu shall 
appear in the Circus surrounded by the"noblest ma- 
trons of the city. The wives of these citizens shall 
accompapy you. Even my mother will be sure to 
approve of Ihis arrangement. Farewell, then, till 
we meet again in the Circus ! " 

He spoke the last words with proud satisfaction, 
and with the grave demeanor that Cilo had taught 
him to adopt in the curia. 

He then gave the order to admit the Alexandrian 
citizens, and the words of entreaty died upon the 
lips of the unfortunate imperial bride, for the fold- 
ing doors were thrown open and the deputation ad- 
vanced through them. 

Old Adventus signed to Melissa, and with droop- 
ing head she followed him through the rooms and 
corridors that led to the apartments of the high- 
priest. 



CHAPTER XXV. . 

Melissa had wept her fill on the breast of the 
lady Euryale, who listened to her woes with moth- 
erly sympathy, and yet she felt as • a biting frost 
had broken and destroyed the blossoms which only 
yesterday had so richly and hopefully decked her 
young heart. Diodoros's love had been to her like 
the fair and sunny summer days that turn the sour, 
hard fruit into sweet and juicy grapes. And now 
the frost had nipped them. The whole future, and 
everything round her, now looked gray, color- 
less, and flat. Only two thoughts held posses- 
sion of her mind: on the one hand, that ofs her be- 
trothed, from whom this visit to the Circus threat- 
ened to separate her forever; and on the other, 
that of her imperial lover, to escape whom she 
would have flown anywhere, even to the grave. 

Euryale remarked with concern how weary and 
broken Melissa looked — so different from her usual 
bright self, while she listened to her father and 
Alexander as they consulted with the lady as to 
the future. Philostratus, who had promised his ad- 
vice, did not appear ; and to the gem-cutter, no pro- 
posal could seem so unwelcome as that of leaving 
his native city and his sick favorite, Philip. 

He considered it senseless, and a result of the 
thoroughly wrong-headed views of sentimental wo- 
men, to reject the monarch of the world when he 



no A THORNY PATH. 

made honorable proposals to an unpretending girl. 
But the lady Euryale — of whom his late wife had 
always spoken with the highest respect — and, sup- 
ported by her, his son Alexander, had both repre- 
sented to him so forcibly that a union with the em- 
peror would render Melissa most unhappy, if it did 
not lead to death, that he had been reduced to 
silence. Only, when they spoke of the necessity of 
flight, he burst out again, declaring that the time 
had not yet come for such extreme measures. 

When Melissa now rejoined them, he spoke of 
the emperor's •ehavior toward her as being worthy 
of a man of honor, and endeavored to touch her 
heart by representing what an old man must feel 
who should be forced to leave the house where his 
father and grandfather had lived before him, and 
even the town whose earth held all that was dear- 
est to him. 

Here the tears which so easily rose to his eyes 
began to flow, and, seeing that Melissa's tender 
heart was moved by his sorrow, he gained confi- 
dence, and reproached his daughter for having 
kindled Caracalla's love, by her radiant eyes — so 
like her mother's ! Honestly believing that his 
affection was returned, Caesar was offering her the 
highest honor in his power ; if she fled from him, 
he would have every right to complain of having 
been basely deceived, and to call her a heartless 
wanton. 

Alexander now came to his sister's aid, and re- 
minded him how Melissa had hazarded life and lib- 
erty to save him and her brothers. She had been 
forced to look so kindly into the tyrant's face if 
only to sue for their pardon, and it became him ill 
to make this a reproach to his daughter. 

Melissa nodded gratefully to her brother, but 



A THORNY PATH. m 

■ 

Heron remained firm in his assertion that to think 
of flight would be foolish, or at least premature. 

At this, Alexander repeated to him that Melissa 
had whispered in his ear that she would rather die 
at once than live in splendor, but in perpetual fear, 
by the side of an unloved husband ; whereupon 
Heron began to breathe hard, as he always did be- 
fore an outburst of anger. 

But a message, calling him to the emperor's 
presence, soon calmed him. 

At parting, he kissed Melissa, and murmured : 

"Would you really drive your old father out of 
our dear home, away from his work, and his birds 
— from his garden, and your mother's grave ? Is it 
then so terrible to live as empress, in splendor and 
honor ? I am going to Caesar — you can not hinder 
me from greeting him kindly from you ? " 

Without waiting for an answer, he left the room ; 
but when he was outside he took care to glance at 
himself in the mirror, arrange his beard and hair, 
and place his gigantic^form in a few of the dignified 
attitudes he intended to adopt 4n the presence of the 
emperor. 

Meanwhile Melissa had thrown off the indiffer- 
ence into which she had fallen, and her old doubts 
raised their warning heads with renewed force. 

Alexander swore to be her faithful ally; Euryale 
once more assured her of her assistance ; and yet, 
more especially when she was moved with pity for 
her father, who was to leave all he loved for her 
sake, she felt as if she were being driven hither and 
thither, in some frail bark, at the mercy of the waves. 

Suddenly a new idea flashed through her mind. 
She rose quickly. 

" I will go to Diodoros," she cried, " and tell 
him all ! He shall decide." 



112 A THORNY PATH. 

" Just now ? " asked Euryale, startled. " You 
would certainly not find your betrothed alone, and 
since all the world knows of Caracalla's inten- 
tions, and gazes curiously after you, your visit 
would instantly be reported to Caesar. Nor is it 
advisable for you to present yourself before your 
offended lover, when you have neither Andreas 
nor any one else to speak for you and take your 
part." 

Melissa burst into tears,^but the matron drew 
her to her and continued tenderly : 

"You must give that up — but, Alexander, do 
you go to your friend, and be your sister's mouth- 
piece! " 

The artist consented with all the ardor of broth- 
erly affection, and having received from Melissa, 
whose courage began to rise again, strict injunc- 
tions as to what he was to say to her lover, he de- 
parted on his errand. 

Wholly absorbed by the stormy emotions of her 
heart, the maiden had forgotten time and every ex- 
ternal consideration ; but the lady Euryale was 
thoughtful for her, and now led her to her chamber 
to have her hair dressed for the Circus. The matron 
carefully avoided, for the present, all mention of her 
young friend's flight, though her mind was con- 
stantly occupied with it — and not in vain. 

The skillful waiting - woman, whom she had 
bought from the house of the priest of Alexander, 
who was a Roman knight, loosened the girl's abun- 
dant brown hair, and, with loud cries of admiration, 
declared it would be easy to dress such locks in the 
most approved style of fashion. She then laid the 
curling-irons on the dish of coals which stood on a 
slender tripod, and was about to twist it into ring- 
lets; but Melissa, who had never resorted to such 



A THORNY PATH. 



113 



arts, refused to permit it. The slave assured her, 
however, as earnestly as if it were a matter of the 
highest importance, that it was impossible to arrange 
the curls of a lady of distinction without the irons. 
Euryale, too, begged Melissa to allow it, as nothing 
would make her so conspicuous*in her overdressed 
surroundings as excessive simplicity. That was 
quite true, but it made the girl realize so vividly 
what was before her, that she covered her face with 
her hands and sobbed out : 

" To be exposed to the gaze of the whole city — 
to its envy and its scorn ! " 

The matron's warning inquiry, what had become 
of her favorite's high-minded calm, and her advice 
to restrain her weeping, lest she should appear be- 
fore the public in the Amphitheater with tear-stained 
eyes, helped her to compose herself. 

The tire-woman had not finished her work when 
Alexander returned, and Melissa dared not turn her 
head for fear of disturbing her in her task. But 
when Alexander began his report with the excla- 
mation, " Who knows what foolish gossip has driven 
him to this ? " she sprang up, regardless of the slave's 
warning cry. And as her brother went on to relate 
how Diodoros had left the Serapeum, in spite of the 
physician's entreaty to wait at least until next morn- 
ing, but that Melissa need not take it greatly to 
heart, it was too much for the girl who had already 
that day gone through such severe and varied ex- 
periences. The ground seemed to heave beneath her 
feet; sick and giddy she put out her hand to find 
some support, that she might not sink on her knees ; 
in so doing, she caught the tall tripod which held 
the dish of coals. It swayed and fell clattering to 
the ground, bringing the irons'with it. Its burn- 
ing contents fell partly on the floor and partly on 

32 



114 



A THORNY PATH. 



the festal robe which Melissa had thrown over a 
chair before loosening her hair. Alexander caught 
her just in time to prevent her falling. 

With her healthy nature, Melissa soon regained 
consciousness, and during the first few moments her 
distress over the spoiled garment threw every other 
thought into the background. Shaking her head 
gravely over the black-edged holes which the coals 
had burned in the peplos and the under -robes, 
Euryale secretly rejoiced at the accident. She re- 
membered that when her heart was torn and bleed- 
ing, after the death of her only child, her thoughts 
were taken off herself tJy the necessary duty of pro- 
viding mourning garments for herself, her husband, 
and the slaves. This trivial task had at least 
helped her to forget for a few hours the bitterness 
of her grief. 

Only anxious to lighten in some sort the fate of 
the sweet young creature whom she had learned to 
love, she made much of the difficulty of procuring 
a fresh dress for Melissa, though she was perfectly 
aware that her sister-in-law possessed many such. 
Alexander was commissioned to take one of the em- 
peror's chariots — which always stood ready for the 
use of the courtiers between the Serapeum and the 
springs on the east — and to hasten to the lady Bere- 
nike. The lady begged that he, as an artist, would 
assist in choosing the robe ; and the less conspicu- 
ous and costly it was the better. 

To this Melissa heartily agreed, and, after Alex- 
ander had gone, Euryale bore off her pale young 
charge to the eating-room, where she forced her to 
take some old wine and a little food, which she 
would not touch before. As the attendant filled 
the wine-cup, the high-priest himself joined them, 
greeted Melissa briefly and with measured court- 



A THORNY PATH. 115 

-esy, and begged his wife to follow him for a mo- 
ment into the tablinum. 

The attendant, a slave who had grown gray in 
the service of Timotheus, now begged the young 
guest, as though he represented his mistress, to take 
a little food, and not to sip so timidly from the wine- 
cup. But the lonely repast was soon ended, and 
Melissa, strengthened and refreshed, withdrew to 
the sleeping-apartment. Only light curtains hung 
at the doors of the high-priest's hurriedly furnished 
rooms, and no one noticed Melissa's entrance into 
the adjoining chamber. 

She had never played the eavesdropper, but she 
had neither the presence of mind to withdraw, nor 
could she avoid hearing that her own name was 
mentioned. 

It was the lady who spoke, and her husband an- 
swered in excited tones : 

" As to your Christianity, and whatever there 
may be in it that is offensive to me as high-priest 
of a heathen god, we will speak of that later. It 
is not a question now of a difference of opinion, but 
of a serious danger, which you with your easily- 
moved heart will bring down upon yourself and me. 
The gem-cutter's daughter is a lovely creature — I 
will not deny it — and worthy of your sympathy ; 
besides which, you, as a woman, can not bear to 
see her most sacred feelings wounded." 

" And would you let your hands lie idle in your 
lap," interposed his wife, " if you saw a lovable, 
innocent child on the edge of a precipice, and felt 
yourself strong enough to save her from falling ? 
You can not have asked yourself what would be 
the fate of a girl like Melissa if she were Caracal- 
la's wife." 

" Indeed I have," Timotheus assured her gravely, 



Il6 A THORNY PATH* 

" and nothing would please me better than that the 
maiden should succeed in escaping that fate. But 
— the time is short, and I must be brief — the em- 
peror is our guest, and honors me with boundless 
confidence. Just now he disclosed to me his deter- 
mination to make Melissa his wife, and I was forced 
to approve it. Thus he looks to me to carry out his 
wishes ; and if the maiden escapes, and there falls on 
you, or, through you, on me, the shadow of a sus- 
picion of having assisted in her flight, he will have 
every right to regard me as a traitor and to treat 
me as such. To others my life is made sacred by 
my high office, but the man to whom a human life — 
no matter whose — is no more than that of a sacrifi- 
cial animal is to you or me, that man would shed 
the blood of us both without a quiver of the eyelid." 

"Then let him!'* cried Euryale, hotly. "My 
bereaved and worn-out life is but a small price to 
pay for that of an innocent, blameless creature, 
glowing with youth and all the happiness of requited 
love, and with a right to the highest joys that life 
can offer." 

" And I ? " exclaimed Timotheus, angrily. " What 
am I to you since the death of our child ? For the 
sake of the first person that came to you as a poor 
substitute for our lost daughter, you are ready to go 
to your death, and to drag me with you into the 
gloom of Hades. There speaks the Christian ! 
Even that gentle philosopher on the throne, Marcus 
Aurelius, was disgusted at your fellow-believers* 
hideous mania for death. The Christian expects 
in the next world all that is denied to him in this. 
But we think of this life, in which the Deity has 
placed us. To me life is the highest blessing, and 
yours is dearer to me than my own. Therefore I 
say, firmly and decidedly : Melissa must not make 



A THORNY PATH. 117 

her escape from this house. If she is determined to 
fly this night, let her do so — I shall not hinder her. 
If your counsel is of service to her, I am glad ; but 
she must not enter this house again after the per- 
formance in the Circus, unless she be firmly resolved 
to become Caesar's wife. If she can not bring her- 
self to this, the apartments which belong to us must 
be closed against her, as against a dangerous foe." 

"And whither can she go ?'* asked Euryale, sad- 
ly and with tearful eyes, for there was no gainsay- 
ing so definite an order from her lord and master. 
" The moment she is missed, they will search her fa- 
ther's house ; and, if she takes advantage of Bereni- 
ke's ship, it will soon be discovered that it was your 
brother's wife who helped her to escape from Cara- 
calla." 

" BereiUke will know what to do," answered 
Timotheus, composedly. " She, if any one, knows 
how to take care of herself. She has the protection 
of her influential brother-in-law, Coeranus ; and just 
now there is nothing she would not do to strike a 
blow at her hated enemy." 

" How sorrow and revenge have worked upon 
that strange woman ! " exclaimed the lady, sadly. 
" Caracalla has injured her, it is true — " 

" He has, and to-day he has added a further, deep- 
er insult, for he forces her to appear in the Amphi- 
theater, with the wives of the other citizens who bear 
the cost of this performance. I was there, and heard 
him say to Seleukus, who was acting as spokesman, 
that he counted on seeing his wife, of whom he had 
heard so much, in her appointed place this evening. 
This will add fuel to the fire of her hatred. If she 
only does not allow her anger to carry her away, 
and to show it in a manner that she will afterward 
regret ! — But my time is short. I have to walk be- 



Il8 A THORNY PATH. 

fore the sacred images in full ceremonial vestments, 
and accompanied by the priest of Alexander. You, 
unfortunately, take no pleasure in such spectacles. 
Once more, then — if the girl is determined to fly, she 
must not return here. I repeat, if any one can help 
her to get away, it is Berenike. Our sister-in-law 
must take the consequences. Csesar can not accuse 
her of treason, at any rate, and her interference 
in the matter will clear us of all sus^picion of com- 
plicity." 

No word of this conversation had escaped Me- 
lissa. She 'learned nothing new from it, but it af- 
fected her deeply. 

Warm-hearted as she was, she fully realized the 
debt of gratitude she owed to the lady Euryale ; 
and she could not blame the high-priest, whom pru- 
dence certainly compelled to close his doors against 
her. And yet she was wounded by his words. She 
had struggled so hard in these last days to banish 
all thought of her own happiness, and shield her 
dear ones from harm, that such selfishness appeared 
doubly cruel to her. Did it not seem as if this priest 
of the great Deity to whom she had been taught to 
pray, cared little what became of his nearest rela- 
tives, so long as he and his wife were unmolested ? 
That was the opposite of what Andreas had praised 
as the highest duty, the last time she had walked with 
him to the ferry ; and since then Johanna had told 
her the story of Christ's sufferings, and she under- 
stood the fervor with which the f reedman had spoken 
of the crucified Son of God — the great example of 
all unselfishness. 

In the enthusiasm of her warm young heart she 
felt that what she had heard of the Christians' teach- 
er was beautiful, and that she too would not find it 
hard to die for those she loved. 



A THORNY PATH. 



119 



With drooping head Euryale re-entered the room, 
and gazed with kind, anxious eyes into the girl's 
face, as if asking her forgiveness. Following the 
impulse of her candid heart, Melissa threw her fair 
young arms round the aged lady, and, to her great 
surprise, after kissing her warmly on brow and 
mouth and eyes, cried in tones of tender entreaty : 

" Forgive me. I did not want to listen, and yet I 
could not choose but hear. No word of your dis- 
course escaped me. I know now that I must not 
fly, and that I must bear whatever fate the gods 
may send me. I used often to say to myself, * Of 
how little importance is my life or my happiness ! ' 
And now that I must give up my lover, come what 
may I care not what the future has in store for 
me. I can never forget Diodoros ; and, when I 
think that everything is at an end between us, it is 
as if my heart were torn in pieces. But 1 have 
found out, in these last days, what heavy troubles 
one may bear without breaking down. If my flight 
is to bring danger, if not death and ruin, upon so 
many good people, I had better stay. The man who 
lusts after me — it is true, when I think of his em- 
brace my blood runs cold ! But perhaps I shall be 
able to endure even that. And then — if I crush my 
heart into silence, and renounce Diodoros forever, 
and give myself up to Caesar^as I must — tell me 
you will not then close your doors against me, but 
that I may stay with you till the horrid hour comes 
when Caracalla calls me ? " 

The matron had listened with deep emotion to 
Melissa's victory over her desires and her aversions. 
This heathen maiden, brought up in the right way 
by a good mother, and to whom life had taught 
many a hard lesson, was she not already treading in 
the footsteps of the Saviour ? This child was offer- 



120 A THORNY PATH. 

ing up the great and pure love of her heart to pre- 
serve others from sorrow and danger; and what 
a different course of action was she herself to pur- 
sue in obedience to her husband's orders — her hus- 
band, whose duty it was to offer a shining example 
to the whole heathen world ! 

She thought of Abraham's sacrifice, and won- 
dered if the Lord might not perhaps be satisfied with 
Melissa's willingness to lay her love upon the altar. 
In any case, whatever she, Euryale, could do to 
save her from the worst fate that could befall a 
woman, that should be done, and this time it was 
she who drew the other toward her and kissed 
her. 

Her heart was full to overflowing, and yet she 
did not forget to warn Melissa to be careful, when 
she was about to lay her head with its artificially 
arranged curls upon the lady's breast. 

" No, no," she said, tenderly warding off the 
maiden's embrace. Then, laying her hands on the 
girrs shoulders, she looked her straight in the face, 
and continued : " Here you will ever find a resting- 
place. When your hair lies smoothly round your 
sweet face, as it did yesterday, then lay it on my 
breast as often as you will. Aye, and it can and 
shall be here in the Serapeum ; though not in these 
rooms, which my lord and master closes against you. 
I told you of the time being fulfilled for each one of 
us, and when yours came you proved yourself to be 
the good tree of which our Lord speaks as bearing 
good fruit. You look at me inquiringly; how in- 
deed should you understand the words of a Chris- 
tian ? But I shall find time enough in the next few 
days to explain them to you ; for — I say it again — 
you shall remain near me while the emperor searches 
the city and half the world over for you. Keep 



A THORNY PATH. 121 

that firmly in your mind and let it help to give you 
courage in the Circus." 

" But my father ? " cried Melissa, pointing to the 
curtain, through which Heron's loud voice now be- 
came audible. 

** Depend on me," whispered the lady, hurriedly ; 
" and rest assured that he will be warned in time. 
Do not betray my promise. If we were to take him 
into our confidence now, he would spoil all. As 
soon as he is gone, and your brother has returned, 
you two shall hear — " 

They were interrupted by the steward, who, with 
a peculiar smile upon his clean-shaven lips, came to 
announce Heron's visit. 

The communicative gem-cutter had already con- 
fided to the servant what it was that agitated him 
so greatly, but Melissa was astonished at the change 
in her father's manner. 

The shuffling gait of the gigantic, unwieldy man, 
who had grown gray stooping over his work, had 
gained a certain majestic dignity. His cheeks 
glowed, and the gray eyes, which had long since 
acquired a fixed look from straining over the gem- 
cutting, now beamed with a blissful radiance. Some- 
thing wonderful must have happened to him, and, 
without waiting to be questioned by the lady, he 
poured out to her the news that he would have been 
overjoyed to have shouted in the market-place for 
all to hear. 

The reception accorded to him at Caesar's table, 
he declared, had been flattering beyond all words. 
The godlike monarch had treated him more consid- 
erately, nay, sometimes with more reverence, than 
his own sons. The best dishes had been put before 
him, and Caracalla had asked all sorts of questions 
about his future consort, and, on hearing that Me- 



122 A THORNY PATH. 

lissa had sent him greetings, he had raised himself 
and drunk to him as if he were a friend. 

His table-companions, too, had treated Heron 
with every distinction. Immediately on his arrival 
the monarch had desired them to honor him as the 
father of the future empress. They had all agreed 
with him in demanding that Zminis the Egyptian 
should be punished with death, and had even en- 
couraged him to give the reins to his righteous 
anger. He, if any one, was in the habit of being 
moderate in all things, if only as a good example to 
his sons ; and he had proved in many a Dionysiac 
feast that the god could not easily overpower him. 
The amount of wine he had drunk to-day would 
generally have had no more effect Upon him than 
water, and yet he had felt now and then as if he were 
drunken, and the whole festal hall turned round with 
him. Even now he would be quite incapable of 
walking forward in a given straight line. 

With the exclamation, " Such is life ! — a few 
hours ago on the rowing-bench, and fighting with 
the brander of the galleys for trying to brand me 
with the slave-mark, and now one of the greatest 
among the great ! " he closed his tale, for a glance 
through the window showed him that time pressed. 

With strange bashfulness he then- gazed at a ring 
upon his right hand, and said hesitatingly that his 
own modesty made the avowal difficult to him ; but 
the fact was, he was not the same man as when he 
last left the ladies. By the grace of the emperor 
he had been made a praetorian. Caesar had at first 
wanted to make him a knight ; but he esteemed 
his Macedonian descent higher than that class, to 
which too many freed slaves belonged for his taste. 
This he had frankly acknowledged, and the emperor 
must have considered his objections valid, for he 



A THORNY PATH. 



123 



immediately spoke a few words to the prefect Ma- 
crinus, and then told the others to greet him as 
senator with the rank of praetorian. 

Then indeed he felt as if the seat beneath him 
were transformed into a wild steed carrying him 
away, through sea and sky — wherever it pleased. 
He had had to hold tightly to the arm of the couch, 
and only remembered that some one — who it was he 
did not know — had whispered to him to thank 
Gaesar. 

" This," continued the gem-cutter, " restored me 
so far to myself that I could express my gratitude to 
your future husband, my child. I am only the sec- 
ond Egyptian who has entered the senate. Coeranus 
was the only one before me. What favor! And 
how can I describe what followed ? All the dis- 
tinguished members of the senate and the past con- 
suls offered me a brotherly embrace as their new 
colleague. When Caesar commanded me to appear 
at your side in the Circus, wearing the white toga 
with the broad purple stripe, and I remarked that 
the shops of the better clothes-sellers would be shut 
by this time on account of the performance, and 
that such a toga was not to be obtained, there was 
a great laugh over the Alexandrian love of amuse- 
ment. From all sides they offered me what I re- 
quired ; but I gave the preference to Theocritus, on 
account of his height. What is long enough for 
him will not be too short for me. — And now one of 
the emperor's chariots is waiting for me. If only 
Alexander were at home ! The house ought to have 
been illuminated and hung with garlands for my ar- 
rival, and a crowd of slaves waiting to kiss my hands. 
There will soon be more than our two. I hope Ar- 
gutis may understand how to fasten on the shoes with 
the straps and the crescent ! Philip knows even less 



124 



A THORNY PATH. 



of these things than I do myself, besides which the 
poor boy is laid low. It is lucky that I remembered 
him. I had very nearly forgotten his existence. Ah ! 
— if your mother were still alive ! She had clever 
fingers ! She — Ah, lady Euryale, Melissa has per- 
haps told you about her. Olympias she was called, 
like the mother of the great Alexander, and, like 
her, she bore good children. You yourself were 
praising my boys just now. And the girl! . . . 
Only a few days ago, it was a pretty, shy thing that 
no one would ever have expected to do anything 
great ; and now, what have we not to thank that 
gentle child for? The little one was always her 
mother's darling. Eternal gods ! I dare not think 
of it ! If only she who is gone might have had 
the joy of hearing me called senator and praetor ! 
O child ! if she could have sat with us to-day in the 
emperor's seats, and we two could have seen you 
there — you, our pride, honored by the whole city, 
Caesar's future bride — " 

Here the strong man with the soft heart broke 
down, and, clasping his hands over his face, sobbed 
aloud, while Melissa clung to him and stroked his 
bearded cheeks. 

Under her loving words of consolation he soon 
regained his composure, and, still struggling agaiixst 
the rising tears, he cried : 

" Thank Heaven, there can be no more foolish 
talk of flight ! I shall stay here ; I shall never take 
advantage of the ivory chair that belongs to me in 
the curia in Rome. Your husband, my child, and the 
state, would scarcely expect it of me. If, however, 
Caesar presents me as his father, with estates and 
treasures, my first thought shall be to raise a monu- 
ment to your mother. You shall see! A monu- 
ment, I tell you, without a rival. It shall repre- 



A THORNY PATH. 



125 



sent the strength of man submissive to womanly 
charm." 

He bent down to kiss his daughter's brow, and 
whispered in her ear : 

" Gaze confidently into the future, my girl. A 
father's eye is not easily deceived, and so I tell 
you — ^that the emperor has been forced to shed 
blood to insure the safety of the throne; but, in 
personal intercourse with him, I learned to know 
your future husband as a noble-hearted man. In- 
deed, I am not rich enough to thank the gods for 
such a son-in-law ! " 

Melissa gazed after her father, incapable of 
speaking. It went to her heart that all these hopes 
should be changed to sorrow and disappointment 
through her. And so she said, with tearful eyes, 
and shook her head when the lady assured her that 
with her it was a question of a cruelly spoiled life, 
whereas her father would only have to renounce 
some idle vanities which he would forget as easily 
as he had seized upon them. 

" You do not know him," answered the maiden, 
sadly. " If I fly, then he too must hide himself in 
a far country. He will never be happy again if they 
take him from the little house — his birds — our moth- 
er's grave. It was for her sake alone that he took 
no thought for the ivory seat in the curia. If you 
only knew how he clings to everything that reminds 
him of our mother, and she never left our city." 

Here she was interrupted by the entrance of 
Philostratus. He was not alone ; an imperial slave 
accompanied him, bringing a graceful basket with 
gifts from the emperor to Melissa. 

First came a wreath of roses and lotos-flowers, 
looking as if they had been plucked just before sun- 
rise, for among the blossoms and leaves there flashed 



126 A THORNY PATH. 

and sparkled a glittering dew of diamonds, lightly 
fastened on delicate silver wires. Next came a 
bunch of flowers, round whose stems a supple golden 
snake was twined, covered with rubies and diamonds 
and destined to coil itself round a woman's arm. 
The third was a necklace of extremely costly Per- 
sian pearls, which had once belonged — so the mer- 
chant had declared — to great Cleopatra's treasure. 

Melissa loved flowers ; and the costly gifts that 
accompanied them could not fail to rejoice a wo- 
man's heart. And yet she only gave them a pass- 
ing glance, reddening painfully as she did so. 

What the bearer had to say to her was of more 
importance to her than the gifts he brought, and in 
fact the troubled manner of the usually composed 
philosopher betrayed that he had something more 
serious to deliver than the gifts of his love-sick lord. 

The lady Euryale, perceiving that he meant to 
try once more to persuade Melissa to yield, has- 
tened to declare that she had found ways and means 
to help the maiden to escape ; but he shook his head 
with a sigh, and said, thoughtfully : 

" Well — well — I shall go on board the ship while 
the wild beasts are doing their part in the Circus. 
May we meet again happily, either here or else- 
where ! My way leads me first to Caesar's mother, 
to inform her of his choice of a wife. Not that he 
needs her consent : whose consent or disapproval 
does Caracalla care for ? But I am to win Julia's 
heart for you. Possibly I may succeed ; but you — 
you scorn it, and fly from her son. And yet — be- 
lieve me, child — the heart of that woman is a treas- 
ure that has no equal, and, if she should open her. 
arms to you, there would be little that you could 
not endure. When I left you, just now, I put my- 
self in your place, and approved of your resolve ; 



A THORNY PATH. 



127 



but it would be wrong not to remind you once 
more of what you must expect if you follow your 
own will, and if Caesar considers himself scorned, 
ill-treated, and deceived by you." 

"In the name of all the gods, what has hap- 
pened ? " broke in Melissa, pallid with fear. Phi- 
loslf atus pressed his hand to his brow, and his voice 
was hoarse with suppressed emotion as he con- 
tinued : "Nothing new — only things are taking 
their old course. You know that Caracalla threat- 
ened old Claudius Vindex and his nephew with 
death because of their opposition to his union with 
you. We all hoped, however, that he would be 
moved to exercise mercy. He is in love — he was 
so gracious at the feast! I myself was foremost 
among those who did their utmost to dispose Cae- 
sar to clemency» But he would not be moved, and, 
before the sun goes down upon this day, the old 
man and the young one — the chiefest among the 
nobles of Rome — will be no more. And it is Cara- 
calla's love for you, child, that sheds this blood. 
Ask yourself after this how many lives will be sac- 
rificed when your flight causes hatred and fury to 
reign supreme in the soul of the cheated monarch ! " 

With quickened breath Euryale had listened to 
the philosopher, without regarding the girl; but 
scarcely had Philostratus uttered his last words 
than Melissa ran to her, and, clasping her hands pas- 
sionately on the matron's arm, she cried, " Ought I 
to obey you, Euryale, and the terrors of my own 
heart, and flee ? " 

Then releasing the lady, she turned again to the 
philosopher, and burst out : " Or are you in the right, 
Philostratus ? Must I stay, to prevent the misery 
that threatens to overtake others ? " 

Beside herself, torn by the storm that raged in 



128 A THORNY PATH. 

her soul, she clasped her hands upon her brow and 
continued, wildly : " You are both of you so wise, 
and surely wish the best. How can you give me 
such opposite advice ? And my own heart ? — why 
have the gods, struck it dumb ? Time was when it 
spoke loudly enough if ever I was in doubt. One 
thing L know for certain : if by the sacrifice of my 
life I could undo it all, I would joyfully cast myself 
before the lions and panthers, like the Christian 
maiden whom my mother saw smiling radiantly as 
she was led into the arena. Splendor and power 
are as hateful to me as the flowers yonder with 
their false dew. I was ever taught to close my ear 
to the voice of selfishness. If I have any wish for 
myself, it is that I may keep my faith with him to 
whom it was promised. But for love of my father, 
and if I could be certain of saving many from death 
and misery, I would stay, though I should despise 
myself and be separated forever from my be- 
loved ! " 

" Submit to the inevitable," interposed the phi- 
losopher, with eager entreaty. " The immortal gods 
will reward you with the blessings of hundreds whom 
a word from you will have saved from ruin and de- 
struction." 

" And what say you ? " asked the maiden, gazing 
with anxious expectancy into the matron's face. 

** Follow your own heart ! " replied the lady, 
deeply moved. 

Melissa had hearkened to both counselors with 
eager ear, and both hung anxiously on her lips, 
while, as if taken out of herself, she gazed with pant- 
ing bosom into the empty air. They had not long 
to wait. Suddenly the maiden approached Philos- 
tratus and said with a ßrmness and decision that as- 
tonished her friend : 



A THORNY PATH. 



129 



" This will I do — this — I feel it here — this is the 
right. I remain, I renounce the love of my heart, 
and accept what Fate has laid upon me. It will be 
hard, and the sacrifice that I offer is great. But I 
must first have the certainty that it shall not be in 



vam." 



" But, child," cried Philostratus, " who can look 
into the future, and answer for what is still to 
come?" 

" Who ? " asked Melissa, undaunted. " He alone 
in whose hand lies my future. To Caesar himself I 
leave the decision. Go you to him now and speak 
for me. Bring him greeting from me, and tell him 
that I, whomi he honors with his love, dare to en- 
treat him modestly but earnestly not to punish the 
aged Claudius Vindex and his nephew for the fault 
they were guilty of on my account. For my sake 
would he deign to grant them life and liberty ? Add 
to this that it is the first proof I have asked of his 
magnanimity, and clothe it all in such winning words 
as Peitho can lay upon your eloquent lips. If he 
grants pardon to these unfortunate ones, it shall be 
a sign to me that I may be permitted to shield others 
from his wrath. If he refuses, and they are put to 
death, then will he himself have decided our fate 
otherwise, and he sees me for the last time alive in 
the Circus. Thus shall it be — I have spoken." 

The last words came like a stern order, and Phi- 
lostratus seemed to have some hopes of the emper- 
or's clemency, for his love's sake, and the philoso- 
pher's own eloquence. The moment Melissa ceased, 
he seized her hand and cried, eagerly : 

" I will try it ; and, if he grant your request, you 
remain ? " 

** Yes," answered the maiden, firmly. " Pray 
Caesar to have mercy, soften his heart as much as 

33 



I30 



A THORNY PATH. 



you are able. I expect an answer before going to 
the Circus." 

She hurried back into the sleeping-room without 
regarding Philostratus's answer. Once there, she 
threw herself upon her knees and prayed, now to the 
manes of her mother, now — it was for the first time 
— to the crucified Saviour of the Christians, who 
had taken upon himself a painful death to bring 
happiness to others. First she prayed for strength 
to keep her vow, come what might ; and then she 
prayed for Diodoros, that he might not be made 
wretched if she found herself compelled to break 
her troth with him. Her father and brothers, too, 
were not forgotten, as she commended their lives to 
a higher power. 

When Euryale looked into the room, she found 
Melissa still upon her knees, her young frame shaken 
as with fever. So she withdrew softly, and in the 
Temple of Serapis, where her husband served as 
high-priest, she prayed to Jesus Christ that he who 
suffered little children to come unto him would 
lead this wandering lamb into the right path. 



CHAPTER XXVL 

The lady Euryale's silent prayer was interrupted 
by the return of Alexander. He brought the clothes 
which Seleukus's wife had. given him for Melissa. 
He was already dressed in his best, and crowned like 
all those who occupied the first seats in the Circus ; 
but his festal garb accorded ill with the pained look 
on his features, from which every trace had vanished 
of the overflowing joy in life which had embellished 
them only this morning. 

He had seen and heard things which made him 
feel that it would no longer be a sacrifice to give 
his life to save his sister. 

Sad thoughts had flitted across his cheerful spirit 
like dark bats, even while he was talking with Melissa 
and her protectress, for he knew well how infinitely 
hard his father would find it to have to quit Alex- 
andria ; and if he himself fled with Melissa he would 
be obliged to give up the winning of fair Agatha. 
The girl's Christian father had indeed received him 
kindly, but had given him to understand plainly 
enough that he would never allow a professed 
heathen to sue for his daughter's hand. Besides 
this, he had met with other humiliations which 
placed themselves like a wall between him and his 
beloved, the only child of a rich and respected man. 
He had forfeited the right of appearing before Zeus 



132 



A THORNY PATH. 



as a suitor ; for indeed he was no longer such as he 
had been only yesterday. 

The news that Caracalla proposed to marry Me- 
lissa had been echoed by insolent tongues, with 
the addition that he, Alexander, had ingratiated 
himself with Caesar by serving him as a spy. No 
one had expressly said this to him ; but, while he was 
hurrying through the city in Caesar's chariot, on the 
ladies' message, it had been made very plain to his 
apprehension. Honest men had avoided him — him 
to whom hitherto every one for whose regard he 
cared had held out a friendly hand ; and much else 
that he had experienced in the course of this drive 
had been unpleasant enough to give rise to a change • 
of his whole inner being. 

The feeling that every one was pointing at him 
the finger of scorn, or of wrath, had never ceased 
to pursue him. And he had been under no illusion ; 
for when he met the old sculptor Lysander, who 
only yesterday had so kindly told him and Melissa 
about Caesar's -mother, as he nodded from the 
chariot his greeting was not returned ; and the 
honest artist had waved his hand with a gesture 
which no Alexandrian could fail to understand as 
meaning, " I no longer know you, and do not wish 
to be recognized by you." 

He had from his childhood loved Diodoros as a 
brother, and in one of the side streets, down which 
the chariot had turned to avoid the tumult in the 
Kanopic way, Alexander had seen his old friend. 
He had desired the charioteer to stop, and had leaped 
out on the road to speak to Diodoros and give him 
at once Melissa's message ; but the young man had 
turned his back with evident displeasure, and to the 
painter's pathetic appeal, " But, at any rate, hear 
me ! " he answered, sharply : " The less I hear of 



A THORNY PATH. 



133 



you and yours the better for me. Go on — go on, 
in Caesar's chariot ! " 

With this he had turned away and knocked at the 
door of an architect who was known to them both ; 
and Alexander, tortured with painful feelings, had 
gone on, and for the first time the idea had taken 
possession of him that he had indeed descended to 
the part of spy when he had betrayed to Caesar what 
Alexandrian wit had to say about him. He could, 
of course, tell himself that he would rather have 
faced death or imprisonment than have betrayed to 
Caracalla the name of one of the gibers ; still, he 
had to admit to himself that, but for the hope of 
saving his father and brother from death and im- 
prisonment, he would hardly have done Caesar such 
service. The mercy shown to them was certainly 
too like payment, and his own part in the matter 
struck him as hateful and base. His fellow-towns- 
men had a right to bear him a grudge, and his 
friends to keep out of his way. A feeling came over 
him of bitter self-contempt, hitherto strange to him ; 
and he understood for the first time how Philip 
could regard life as a burden and call it a malicious 
Danaus-gift of the gods. When, finally, in the Ka- 
nopic way, close in front of Seleukus's house, a 
youth unknown to him cried, scornfully, as the 
chariot was slowly making its way through the 
throng, " The brother-in-law of Tarautas ! " he had 
great difficulty in restraining himself from leap- 
ing down and letting the rascal feel the weight 
of his fists. He knew, too, that Tarautas was 
the name of a hateful and bloodthirsty gladiator 
which had been given as a nickname to Caesar in 
Rome; and when he heard the insolent fellow's 
cry taken up by the mob, who shouted after him, 
** Tarautas's brother-in-law ! " wherever he went. 



134 



A THORNY PATH. 



he felt as though he were being pelted with mire 
and stones. 

It would have been a real comfort to him if the 
earth would have opened to swallow him with the 
chariot, to hide him from the sight of men. He 
could have burst out crying like a child that has 
been beaten. When at last he was safe inside Se- 
leukus's house, he was easier; for here he was 
known ; here he would be understood. Berenike 
must know what he thought of Caesar's suit, and 
seeing her wholesome and honest hatred, he had 
sworn to himself that he would snatch his sister 
from the hands of the tyrant, if it were to lead him 
■to the most agonizing death. 

While she was engaged in selecting a dress for 
htv prot^g/e^ he related to the lady Euryale what had 
happened to him in the street and in the house of 
Seleukus. He had been conducted past the soldiers 
in the vestibule and impluvium to the lady's private 
rooms, and there he had been witness to a violent 
matrimonial dispute. Seleukus had previously deliv- 
ered to his wife Caesar's command that she should ap- 
pear in the Amphitheater with the other noble dames 
of the city. Her answer was a bitter laugh, and a 
declaration that she would mingle with the specta- 
tors in none but mourning robes. Thereupon her 
husband, pointing out to her the danger to which 
such conduct would expose them, had raised objec- 
tions, and she at last had seemed to yield. When 
Alexander joined her he had found her in a splen- 
did dress of shining purple brocade, her black hair 
crowned with a wreath of roses, and a splendid dia- 
dem ; a garland of roses hung across her bosom, and 
precious stones sparkled round her throat and arms. 
In short, she was arrayed like a happy mother for 
her daughter's wedding-day. 



A THORNY PATH. 



135 



Soon after Alexander's arrival Seleukus had 
come in, and this conspicuously handsome dress, so 
unbecoming to the matron's age, and so unlike her 
usual attire — chosen, evidently, to put the mon- 
strosity of Caesar's demand in the strongest light — 
had roused her husband's wrath. He had expressed 
his dissatisfaction in strong terms, and again pointed 
out to her the danger in which such a daring demon- 
stration might involve them ; but this time therö 
was no moving the lady ; she would not despoil 
herself of a single rose. After she had solemnly 
declared that she would appear in the Circus either 
as she thought fit or not at all, her husband had left 
her in anger. 

" What a fool she is 1 " Euryale exclaimed. 

Then she showed him a white robe of beautiful 
bombyx, woven in the isle of Kos, which she had 
decided on for Melissa, and a peplos with a border 
of tender sea-green ; and Alexander approved of the 
choice. 

Time pressed, and Euryale went at once to 
Melissa with the new festal raiment. Once more 
she nodded kindly to the girl, and begged her, as 
she herself had something to discuss with Alexan- 
der, to allow the waiting-woman to dress her. She 
felt as if she were bringing the robe to a condemned 
creature, in which she was to be led to execution, 
and Melissa felt the same. 

Euryale then returned to the painter, and bade 
him end his narrative. 

The lady Berenike had forthwith desired Johan- 
na to pack together all the dead Korinna's festal 
dresses. Alexander had then followed her guidance, 
accompanying her to a court in the slaves' quarters, 
where a number of men were awaiting her. These 
were the captains of Seleukus's ships, which were 



136 A THORNY PATH. 

now in port, and the superintendents of his grana- 
ries and offices, altogether above a hundred freed- 
men in the merchant's service. Each one seemed 
to know what he was here for. 

The matron responded to their hearty greetings 
with a word of thanks, and added, bitterly : 

** You see before you a mourning mother whom 
a ruthless tyrant compels to go to a festival thus 
— thus — only look at me — bedizened like a pea- 
cock ! " 

At this the bearded assembly gave loud expres- 
sion to their dissatisfaction, but Berenike went on : 
" Melapompus has taken care to secure good places ; 
but he has wisely not taken them all together. You 
are all free men ; I have no orders to give you. 
But, if you are indeed indignant at the scorn and 
heart-ache inflicted on your lord's wife, make it 
known in the Circus to him who has brought them 
on her. You are all past your first youth, and will 
carefully avoid any rashness which may involve 
you in ruin. May the avenging gods aid and pro- 
tect you ! " 

With this she had turned her back on the multi- 
tude ; but Johannes, the Christian lawyer, the chief 
freedman of the household, had hurried into the 
court-yard, just in time to entreat her to give up 
this ill-starred demonstration, and to extinguish the 
fire she had tried to kindle. So long as Caesar wore 
the purple, rebellion against him, to whom the Di- 
vinity had intrusted the sovereignty, was a sin. 
The scheme she was plotting was meant to punish 
him who had pained her; but she forgot that it 
might cost these brave men, husbands and fathers, 
their life or liberty. The vengeance she called on 
them to take might be balm to the wounds of her 
own heart ; but if Caesar in his wrath brought de- 



A THORNY PATH. 



137 



struction down on these, her innocent instruments, 
that balm would turn to burning poison. 

These words, whispered to her with entire con- 
viction, had not been without their effect. For 
some minutes Berenike had stared gloomily at the 
ground ; but then she had again approached the as- 
sembly, to repeat the warning given her by the 
Christian, whom all respected, and by whom some 
indeed had been persuaded to be baptized. 

" Johannes is right," she ended. " This ill-used 
heart did wrong when it sent up its cry of anguish 
before you. Rather will I be trodden under foot 
by the enemy, as is the manner of the Christians, 
than bring such misfortune on innocent men, who 
are so faithful to our house. Be cautious, then. 
Give no overt expression to your feelings. Let 
each one who feels too weak to control his wrath, 
avoid the Circus; and those who go, keep still if 
they feel moved to act in my behalf. One thing 
only you may do. Tell every one, far and wide, 
what I had purposed. What others may do, they 
themselves must answer for." 

The Christian had strongly disapproved of this 
last clause; but Berenike had paid no heed, and 
had left the court-yard, followed by Alexander. 

The shouts of the indignant multitude had rung 
in their ears, and, in spite of her warning, they had 
sounded like a terrible threat. Johannes, to be 
sure, had remained, to move them to moderation by 
further remonstrances. 

** What were the mad creatures plotting ? " Eury- 
ale anxiously broke in ; and he hastily went on : 
"They call Caesar by no name but Tarautas; every 
mouth is full of gibes and rage at the new and 
monstrous taxes, the billeting of the troops, and the 
intolerable insolence of the soldiery, which Cara- 



138 A THORNY PATH. 

calla wickedly encourages. His contemptuous in- 
difference has deeply offended the heads of the 
town. And then his suit to my sister ! Young and 
old are wagging their tongues over it." 

" It would be more like them to triumph in it," 
said the matron, interrupting him. " An Alexan- 
drian in the purple, on the throne of the Caesars ! " 

" 1 too had hoped that," cried Alexander, " and 
it seemed so likely. But who can understand the 
populace ? Every woman in the place, I should 
have thought, would hold her head higher, at the 
thought that an Alexandrian girl was empress ; but 
it was from the women that I heard the most vin- 
dictive and shameless abuse. I heard more than 
enough ; for, as we got closer to the Serapeum, the 
more slowly was the chariot obliged to proceed, to 
make its way through the crowd. And the things I 
heard ! I clinch my fists now as I only think of 
them. — And what will it be in the Circus ? What 
will not Melissa have to endure ! " 

" It is envy," the matron murmured to herself; 
but she was immediately silent, for the young girl 
came toward them, out of the bedroom. Her toi- 
let was complete ; the beautiful white dress became 
her well. The wreath of roses, with diamond dew- 
drops, lay lightly on her hair, the snake-shaped 
bracelet which her imperial suitor had sent her 
clasped her white arm, and her small head, some- 
what bent, her pale, sweet face, and large, bashful, 
inquiring, drooping eyes formed such an engaging, 
modest, and unspeakably touching picture, that 
Euryale dared to hope that even in the Circus none 
but hardened hearts could harbor a hostile feeling 
against this gentle, pure blossom, slightly drooping 
with silent sorrow. She could not resist the im- 
pulse to kiss Melissa, and the half-formed purpose 



A THORNY PATH. 



139 



ripened within her to venture the utmost for the 
child's protection. The pity in her heart had turned 
to love ; and when she saw that to this sweet creat- 
ure, at the mere sight of whom her heart went forth, 
the most splendid jewels, in which any other girl 
would have been glad to deck herself, were as a 
heavy burden to be borne but sadly, she felt it a 
sacred duty to comfort her and lighten this trial, 
and shelter Melissa, so far as was in her power, from 
insult and humiliation. 

It was many years since she had visited the 
Amphitheater, where the horrible butchery was an 
abomination to her ; but to-day her heart bade her 
conquer her old aversion, and accompany the girl to 
the Circus. 

Had not Melissa taken the place in her heart of 
her lost daughter ? Was not she, Euryale, the only 
person who, by showing herself with Melissa and 
declaring herself her friend, could give the people 
assurance that the girl, who was exposed to misap- 
prehension and odium by the favor she had met 
with from the ruthless and hated sovereign, was in 
truth pure and lovable ? Under her guardianship, 
by her side, the girl, as she knew, would be protect- 
ed from misapprehension and insult; and she, an 
old woman and a Christian, should she evade the 
first opportunity of taking up a cross in imitation 
of the Divine Master, among whose followers she 
joyfully counted herself — though secretly, for fear 
of men ? All this flashed through her mind with 
the swiftness of lightning, and her call, " Doris ! " 
addressed to her waiting-woman, was so clear and 
unexpected that Melissa's overstrung nerves were 
startled. She looked up at the lady in amazement, 
as, without a word of explanation, she said to the 
woman who had hurried in : 



I40 



A THORNY PATH. 



" The blue robe I wore at the festival of Adonis, 
my mother's diadem, and a large gem with the head 
of Serapis for my shoulder. My hair — oh, a veil 
will cover it ! What does it matter for an old wom- 
an? — You, child, why do you look at me in such 
amazement ? What mother would allow a pretty 
young daughter to appear alone in the Circus ? Be- 
sides, I may surely hope that it will confirm your 
courage to feel that I am at your side. Perhaps 
the populace may be moved a little in your favor if 
the wife of the high-priest of their greatest god is 
your companion." 

But she could scarcely end her speech, for Me- 
lissa had flown into her arms, exclaiming, " And 
you will do this for me ? " while Alexander, deeply 
touched by gratitude and joy, kissed her thin arm 
and the hem of her peplos. 

While Melissa helped the matron to change her 
dress — in the next room — Alexander paced to and 
fro in great unrest. He knew the Alexandrians, 
and there was not the slightest doubt but that the 
presence of this universally revered lady would 
make them look with kindlier eyes on his sister. 
Nothing else could so effectually impress them with 
the entire propriety of her appearance in the Circus. 
The more seriously he had feared that Melissa 
might be deeply insulted and offended by the rough 
demonstrations of the mob, the more gratefully did 
his heart beat ; nay, his facile nature saw in this kind 
act the first smile of returning good fortune. 

He only longed to be hopeful once more, to 
enjoy the present — as so many philosophers and 
poets advised — and especially the show in the Cir- 
cus, his last pleasure, perhaps ; to forget the immi- 
nent future. 

The old bright look came back to his face ; but 



A THORNY PATH. 



141 



it soon vanished, for even while he pictured himself 
in the amphitheatre, he remembered that there, too, 
his former acquaintances might refuse to speak to 
him ; that the odious names of " Tarautas' brother- 
in-law " or of " traitor " might be shouted after him 
on the road. A cold chill came over him, and the 
image of pretty Ino rose up before him — Ino, who 
had trusted in his love ; and to whom, of all others, 
he had given cause to accuse him of false-heart- 
edness. An unpleasant sense came over him of dis- 
satisfaction with himself, such as he, who always re- 
garded self-accusation, repentance, and atonement 
as a foolish waste of life, had never before experi- 
enced. 

The fine, sunny autumn day had turned to a 
sultry, dull evening, and Alexander went to the 
window to let the sea-breeze fan his dewy brow ; 
but he soon heard voices behind him, for Euryale 
and Melissa had re-entered the room, followed by 
the house-steward, who presented to his mistress a 
sealed tablet which a slave had just brought from 
Philostratus. The women had been talking of Me- 
lissa's vow ; and Euryale had promised her that, if 
Fate should decide against Caesar, she would convey 
the girl to a place of safety, where she could cer- 
tainly not be discovered, and might look forward in 
peace to the future. Then she had impressed on 
her that, if things should be otherwise ordered, she 
must endure even the unendurable with patience, as 
an obedient wife, as empress, but still ever conscious 
of the solemn and beneficent power she might wield 
in her new position. 

The tablets would now settle the question ; and 
side by side the two women hastily read the missive 
which Philostratus had written on the wax, in his 
fine, legible hand. It was as follows : 



142 



A THORNY PATH. 



"The condemned have ceased to live. Your 
efforts had no effect but to hasten their end. Caesar's 
desire was to rid you of adversaries even against 
your will. Vindex and his nephew are no more; 
but I embarked soon enough to escape the rage of 
him who might have attained the highest favors of 
fortune if he had but known how to be merciful." 

"God be praised! — but alas, poor Vindex!" 
cried Euryale, as she laid down the tablets. But 
Melissa kissed her, and then exclaimed to her 
brother : 

" Now all doubts are at an end. I may fly. He 
himself has settled the matter ! " 

Then she added, more gently, but still urgently : 
" Do you take care of my father, and Philip, and of 
yourself. The lady Euryale will protect me. Oh, 
how thankful am I ! " 

She looked up to heaven with fervent devotion. 
Euryale whispered to them : " My plan is laid. As 
soon as the performance is over, Alexander shall 
take you home, child, to your father's house ; you 
must go in one of Caesar's chariots. Afterward 
come back here with your brother ; I will wait for 
you below. But now we will go together to the 
Circus, and can discuss the details on our way. 
You, my young friend, go now and order away the 
imperial litter ; bid my steward to have the horses 
put to my covered harmamaxa. There is room in 
it for us all three." 

By the time Alexander returned, the daylight 
was waning, and the clatter of the chariots began 
to be audible which conveyed Caesar's court to the 
Circus. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

The great Amphitheatre of Dionysos was in the 
Bruchium, the splendid palatial quarter of the city, 
close to the large harbor between the Choma and 
the peninsula of Lochias. Hard l?y the spacious and 
lofty rotunda, in which ten thousand spectators 
could be seated, stood the itiost fashionable gym- 
nasia and riding-schools. These buildings, which 
had been founded long since by the Ptolemiac 
kings, and had been repeatedly extended and beau- 
tified, formed, with the adjoining schools for gladi- 
ators and beast-fighters, and the stables for wild 
beasts from every part of the world, a little town 
by themselves. 

At this moment the amphitheatre looked like a 
beehive, of which every cell seems to be full, but 
in which a whole swarm expects yet to find room. 
The upper places, mere standing-room for the com- 
mon people, and the cheaper seats, had been full 
early in the day. By the afternoon the better class 
of citizens had come in, if their places were not re- 
served ; and now, at sunset, those who were arriving 
in litters and chariots, just before the beginning of 
the show, were for the most part in Caesar's train, 
court officials, senators, or the rich magnates of the 
city. 

The strains of music were by this time mingling 
with the shouting and loud talk of the spectators, or 



144 



A THORNY PATH. 



of the thousands who were crowding round the build- 
ing without hoping to obtain admission. But even 
for them there was plenty to be seen. How de- 
lightful to watch the weU-dressed women, and the 
men of rank and wealth, crowned with wreaths, as 
they dismounted ; to see the learned men and art- 
ists arrive — more or less eagerly applauded, ac- 
cording to the esteem in which they were held by 
the populace! The most splendid sight of all was 
the procession of priests, with Timotheus, the high- 
priest of Serapis, at their head, and by his side the 
priest of Alexander, both marching with dignity 
under a canopy. They were followed by the animals 
to be slaughtered for sacrifice, and the images of the 
gods and the deified Caesars, which were to be placed 
in the arena, as the most worshipful of all the spec- 
tators. Timotheus wore the splendid irtsignia of his 
office ; the priest of Alexander was in purple, as be- 
ing the idiologos and head of all the temples of 
Egypt, and representative of Caesar. 

The advent of the images of the Caesars gave 
rise to a sort of judgment of the dead : for the mob 
hailed that of Julius Caesar with enthusiasm, that of 
Augustus, with murmurs of disapproval ; when Ca- 
ligula appeared, he was hissed ; while the statues 
of Vespasian, Titus, Hadrian, and Antonine, met 
with loud acclamations. That of Septimius Severus, 
Caracalla's father, to whom the town owed many 
benefits, was very well received. The images of 
the gods, too, had very various fates. Serapis, and 
Aliexander, the divine hero of the town, were en- 
thusiastically welcomed, while scarcely a voice was 
heard on the approach of Zeus-Jupiter and Ares- 
Mars. They were regarded as the gods of the hated 
Romans. 

The companies of the imperial body-guard, who 



A THORNY PATH. 



145 



were placed about the amphitheatre, found no great 
difference, so long as it was daylight, between the 
crowd round the Circus of Alexandria and that by 
the Tiber. What chiefly struck them was the larger 
number of dusky faces, and the fanciful garb of the 
Magians. The almost naked rabble, too, with noth- 
ing on but a loin-cloth, who wriggled in and out of 
the throng, ready for any service or errand, formed 
a feature unknown at Rome. But, as it grew darker, 
the Romans began to perceive that it was not for 
nothing that they had come hither. 

At Rome, when some great show was promised, 
of beast-fighting, gladiators, and the like, there were, 
no doubt, barbarian princes to be seen, and envoys 
from the remotest ends of the earth in strange and 
gorgeous array ; and there, too, small wares of every 
kind were for sale. By the Tiber, again, night shows 
were given, with grand illuminations, especially for 
the feast of Flora ; but here, as soon as the sun had 
set, and the sports were about to begin, the scene 
was one never to be forgotten. Some of the la- 
dies who descended from the litters, wore garments 
of indescribable splendor ; the men even displayed 
strange and handsome costumes as they were helped 
out of their gilt and plated chariots by their servants. 
What untold wealth must these men have at their 
command, to be able to dress their slaves in gold 
and silver brocade ; and the runners, who kept up 
with the swiftest horses, must have lungs of iron ! 
The praetorians, who had not for many a day seen 
anything to cause them to forget the motto of the 
greatest philosopher among their poets — never to 
be astonished at anything — repeatedly pushed each 
other with surprise and admiration ; nay, the cen- 
turion Julius Martialis, who had just now had a 
visit in camp from his wife and children, in defiance 

34 



146 A THORNY PATH. 

of orders, while Caesar himself was looking pn, 
struck his fist on his greaves, and, exclaiming loud- 
ly, " Look out ! " pointed to Seleukus's chariot, for 
which four runners, in tunics with long sleeves, made 
of sea-green bombyx, richly embroidered with silver, 
were making a way through the crowd. 

The barefooted lads, with their nimble, gazelle- 
like legs, were all well looking, and might have been 
cast all in one mold. But what struck the centu- 
rion and his comrades as most remarkable in their 
appearance were the flash and sparkle from their 
slender ankles, as the setting sun suddenly shot a 
fleeting ray through a rift in the heavy clouds. 
Each of these fellows wore on his legs gold bands 
set with precious stones, and the rubies which glit- 
tered on the harness of Seleukus's horse were of far 
greater value. 

He, as master of the festival, had come betimes, 
and this was the first of many such displays of 
wealth which followed each other in quick succes- 
sion, as soon as the brief twilight of Egypt had 
given way to darkness, and the lighting up of the 
Circus was begun. 

Here came a beautifully dressed woman in a 
roomy litter, over which waved a canopy entirely 
of white ostrich-plumes, which the evening breeze 
swayed like a thicket of fern-leaves. This throne 
was borne by ten black and ten white slave-girls, 
and before it two fair children rode on tame os- 
triches. The tall heir of a noble house, who, like 
Caesar at Rome, belonged to the "Blues," drove 
his own team of four splendid white horses; and 
he himself was covered with turquoises, while the 
harness was set with cut sapphires. 

The centurion shook his head in silent admira- 
tion. His face had been tanned in many wars, both 



A THORNY PATH. 



147 



in the East and West, and he had fought even in 
distant Caledonia, but the low forehead, loose un- 
der lip, and dull eye spoke of small gifts of intel- 
lect. Nevertheless, he was not lacking in strength 
of will, and was regarded by his comrades as a good 
beast of burden who would submit to a great deal 
before it became too much for him. But then he 
would break out like a mad bull, and he might long 
ago have risen to higher rank, had he not once in 
such a fit of passion nearly throttled a fellow-sol- 
dier. For this crime he had been severely punished, 
and condemned to begin again at the bottom of th^ 
ladder. He owed it chiefly to the young tribune 
Aurelius Apollinaris that he had very soon regained 
the- centurion's staff, in spite of his humble birth ; 
he had saved that officer's life in the war with the 
Armenians — to be here, in Alexandria, cruelly muti- 
lated by the hand of his sovereign. 

The centurion had a faithful heart. He was as 
much attached to the two noble brothers as to his 
wife and children, for indeed he owed them much ; 
and if the service had allowed it he would long since 
have made his way to the house of Seleukus to learn 
how the wounded tribune was faring. But he had 
not time even to see his own family, for his younger 
and richer comrades, who wanted to enjoy the pleas- 
ures of the city, had put upon him no small share of 
their own duties. Only this morning a young soU 
dier of high birth, who had begun his career at the 
same time as Martialis, had promised him some 
tickets of admission to the evening's performance 
in the Circus if he would take his duty on guard 
outside the amphitheatre. And this offer had been 
very welcome to the centurion, for he thus found it 
possible to give those he loved best, his wife and his 
mother, the greatest treat which could be offered to 



148 A THORNY PATH. 

any Alexandrian. And now, when anything note- 
worthy was to be seen outside, he only regretted 
that he had already some time since conducted 
them to their seats in one of the upper rows. He 
would have liked that they, too, should have seen 
the horses and the chariots and the " Blue " chariot- 
eer's turquoises and sapphires ; although a decurion 
observed, as he saw them, that a Roman patrician 
would scorn to dress out his person with such bar- 
baric splendor, and an Alexandrian of the praetorian 
guard declared that his fellow-citizens of Greek ex- 
traction thought more of a graceful fold than of 
whole strings of precious stones. 

" But why, then, was this * Blue * so vehemently 
hailed by the mob ! " asked a Pannonian in the 
guard. 

" The mob ! " retorted the Alexandrian, scorn- 
fully. " Only the Syrians and other Asiatics. Look 
at the Greeks. The great merchant Seleukus is the 
richest of them all, but splendid as his horses, his 
chariots, and his slaves are, he himself wears only 
the simple Macedonian mantle. Though it is of 
costly material, who would suspect it ? If you see 
a man swaggering in such a blaze of gems you may 
wager your house — if you have one — that his birth- 
place lies not very far from Syria." 

" Now, that one, in a mother-of-pearl shell on two 
wheels, is the Jew Poseidonius," the Pannonian put 
in. " I am quartered on his father. But he is 
dressed like a Greek." 

At this the centurion, in his delight at knowing 
something, opened his mouth with a broad grin : "I 
am a native here," said he, " and I can tell you the 
Jew would make you answer for it if you took him 
for anything but a Greek." 

" And quite right," added another soldier, from 



A THORNY PATH. 



149 



Antioch. " The Jews here are many, but they have 
little in common with those in Palestine. They 
wish to pass for Greeks ; they speak Greek, assume 
Greek names, and even cease to believe in thfe great 
God their father ; they study Greek philosophy, and 
I know one who worships in the Temple of Serapis." 

" Many do the same in Rome," said a man of 
Ostia. " I know an epigram which ridicules them 
for it." 

At this point they were interrupted, for Martialis 
pointed to a tall man who was coming toward them, 
and whom his sharp eye had recognized as Macrinus, 
the prefect of the praetorians. In an instant the sol- 
diers were erect and rigid, but still many a helmeted 
head was turned toward the spot where their chief 
stood talking in an undertone to the Magian Sera- 
pion. 

Macrinus had persuaded Caesar to send for the 
exerciser, to test his arts. Immediately after the 
performance, however late it might be, the Magian 
was to be admitted to his presence. 

Serapion thanked the prefect, and then whispered 
to him, " I have had a second revelation." 

" Not here ! " exclaimed Macrinus, uneasily, and, 
leading away his handsome little son, he turned 
toward the entrance. 

Dusk, meanwhile, had given way to darkness, 
and several slaves stood ready to light the innumer- 
able little lamps which were to illuminate the out- 
side of the Circus. They edged the high arches 
which surrounded the two lower stories, and sup- 
ported the upper ranks of the enormous circular 
structure. Separated only by narrow intervals, the 
rows of lights formed a glittering series of frames 
which outlined the noble building and rendered it 
visible from afar. 



ISO 



A THORNY PATH. 



The arches on the ground-floor led to the cells 
from which the men and beasts were let out into the 
arena; but some, too, were fitted with shops, where 
flowers and wreaths, refreshments, drinks, handker- 
chiefs, fans, and other articles in request, were sold. 
On the footway between the building and the row of 
pitch torches which surrounded it, men and women 
in thousands were walking to and fro. Smart, in- 
quisitive girls were pushing their way singly or in 
groups, and their laughter drowned the deep, tragi- 
cal voices of the soothsayers and Magians who an- 
nounced their magic powers to the passers by. Some 
of these even made their way into the waiting- 
rooms of the gladiators and wrestlers, who to-day 
so greatly needed their support that, in spite of 
severe and newly enforced prohibitions, manjr a 
one stole out into the crowd to buy some effectual 
charm or protecting amulet. 

Where the illuminations were completed, at- 
tempts of another kind were being made to work 
upon the mood of the people ; nimble-tongued fel- 
lows — some in the service of Macrinus and some in 
that of the anxious senate — were distributing hand- 
kerchiefs to wave on Caesar's approach, or flowers 
to strew in his path. More than one, who was known 
for a malcontent, found a gold coin in his hand, with 
the image of the monarch he was expected to hail ; 
and on the way by which Caesar was to come 
many of those who awaited him wore the caracalla. 
These were for the most part bribed, and their accla- 
mations were to mollify the tyrant's mood. 

As soon as the prefect had disappeared within 
the building, the praetorian ranks fell out again. It 
was lucky that among them' were several Alexan- 
drians, besides the centurion Martialis, who had 
not long been absent from their native town ; for 



A THORNY PATH. 



151 



without them much would have remained incompre- 
hensible. The strangest thing to foreign eyes was 
a stately though undecorated harmamaxa, out of 
which stepped first a handsome wreathed youth, then 
a matron of middle age, and at last an elegantly 
dressed girl, whose rare beauty made even Martialis 
— who rarely noticed women — exclaim, ** Now, she 
is to my taste the sweetest thing of all." 

But there must have been something very re- 
markable about these three; for when they ap- 
peared the crowd broke out at first in loud shouts 
and outcries, which soon turned to acclamations 
and welcome, though through it all shrill whistles 
and hisses were heard. 

" Caesar's new mistress, the daughter of a gem- 
cutter ! " the Alexandrian muttered to his comrades. 
" That handsome boy is her brother, no doubt. 
He is said to be a mean sycophant, a spy paid by 
Caesar." 

"He?" said an older centurion, shaking his 
scarred head. " Sooner would I believe that the 
shouts of the populace were intended for the old 
woman and not for the )wung one." 

" Then a sycophant he is and will remain," said 
the Alexandrian with a laugh. " For, as a matter of 
fact, it is the elder lady they are greeting, and, by 
Heracles, she deserves it ! She is the wife of the 
high-priest of Serapis. There are few poor in this 
city to whom she has not done a kindness. She is 
well able, no doubt, for her husband is the brother 
of Seleukus, and her father, too, sat over his ears in 
gold." 

" Yes, she is able," interrupted Martialis, with a 
tone of pride, as though it were some credit to him- 
self. " But how many have even more, and keep 
their purse-strings tight ! I have known her since 



152 



A THORNY PATH. 



she was a child, and she is the best of all that is 
good. What does not the town owe to her ! She 
risked her life to move Caesar's father to mercy to- 
ward the citizens, after they had openly declared 
against him and in favor of his rival Pescennius 
Niger. And she succeeded, too." 

" Why, then, ar^-they whistling ? " asked the older 
centurion. 

" Because her companion is a spy,*' repeated the 
Alexandrian. " And the girl — In Caesar's favor ! 
But, after all, which of you all would not gladly see 
his sister or his niece Caesar's light of love ? " 

" Not I ! " cried Martialis. * " But the man who 
speaks ill of that girl only does so because he likes 
blue eyes best. The maiden who comes in the lady 
Euryale's chariot is spotless, you may swear." 

" Nay, nay," said the younger Alexandrian sooth- 
ingly. " That black-haired fellow and his compan- 
ions would whistle another tune if they knew any 
evil of her, and she would not be in the lady Eu- 
ryale's company — that is the chief point. — But, look 
there ! The shameless dogs are stopping their way ! 
— * Green 'to a man. — But» here come the lictors." 

" Attention ! " shouted Martialis, firmly resolved 
to uphold the guardians of the peace, and not to suf- 
fer any harm to the matron and her fair companion ; 
for Euryale's husband was the brother of Seleu- 
kus, whom his father and father-in-law had served 
years ago, while in the villa at Kanopus his mother 
and wife were left in charge to keep it in order. He 
felt that he was bound in duty to the merchant, 
and that all who were of that household had a right 
to count on his protection. But no active measures 
were needed; a number of " Blues" had driven off 
the ** Greens " who had tried to bar Alexander's 
way, and the lictors came to their assistance. 



A THORNY PATH. 153 

* A young man in festal array, who had pushed 
into the front rank of the bystanders, had looked 
on with panting breath. He was very pale, and the 
thick wreath he wore was scarcely sufficient to hide 
the bandage under it. This was Diodoros, Melissa's 
lover. After resting awhile at his friend's house he 
had been carried in a litter to the amphitheatre, for 
he could yet hardly walk. His father being one of 
the senators of the town, his family had a row of seats 
in the lowest and best tier ; but this, on this occasion, 
was entirely given up to Caesar and his court. Con- 
sequently the different members of the senate could 
have only half the usual number of seats. Still, the 
son of Polybius might in any case claim two in his 
father's name ; and his friend Timon — who had also 
provided him with suitable clothing — had gone to 
procure the tickets from the curia. They were to 
meet at the entrance leading to their places, and it 
would be some little time yet before Timon could 
return. 

Diodoros had thought he would behold his im- 
perial rival ; however, instead of Caracalla he had 
seen the contemptuous reception which awaited Al- 
exander and Melissa, from some at least of the popu- 
lace. Still, how fair and desirable had she seemed 
in his eyes, whom, only that morning, he had been 
blessed in calling his ! As he now moved away 
from the main entrance, he asked himself why it 
was such torture to him to witness the humiliation of 
a being who had done him such a wrong, and whom 
he thought he hated and scorned so utterly. Hardly 
an hour since he had declared to Timon that he had 
rooted his love for Melissa out of his heart. He 
himself would feel the better for using the whistle 
he wore, in derision of her, and for seeing her faith- 
lessness punished by the crowd. But now ? When 



154 



A THORNY PATH. 



the insolent uproar went up from the "Greens," 
whose color he himself wore, he had found it diffi- 
cult to refrain from rushing on the cowardly crew 
and knocking some of them down. 

He now made his way with feeble steps to the 
entrance where he was to meet his friend. The 
blood throbbed in his temples, his mouth was 
parched, and, as a fruit-seller cried her wares from 
one of the archways, he took a few apples from her 
basket to refresh himself with their juice. His 
hand trembled, and the experienced old woman, 
observing the bandage under his wreath, supposed 
him to be one of the excited malcontents who had 
perhaps already fallen into the hands of the lictors. 
So, with a significant grin, she pointed under the 
table on which her fruit-baskets stood, and said: 
" I have plenty of rotten ones. Six in a wrapper, 
quite easy to hide under your cloak. For whom 
you will. Caesar has given the golden apple of 
Paris to a goddess of this town. I should best like 
to see these flung at her brother, the sycophant." 

" Do you know them ? " asked Diodoros, 
hoarsely. 

" No," replied the old woman. " No need for 
that. I have plenty of customers and good ears. 
The slut broke her word with a handsome youth of 
the town for the sake of the Roman, and they who 
do such things are repaid by the avenging gods." 

Diodoros felt his knees failing under him, and a 
wrathful answer was on his lips, when the huckster 
suddenly shouted like mad : ** Caesar, Caesar ! He 
is coming." 

The shouts of the crowd hailing their emperor 
had already become audible through the heavy 
evening air, at first low and distant, and louder by 
degrees. They now suddenly rose to a deafening 



A THORNY PATH. 155 

uproar, and while the sound rolled on like approach« 
ing thunder, broken by shrill whistles suggesting 
lightning, the sturdy old apple-seller clambered 
unaided on to her table,' and shouted with all her 
might : 

" Caesar ! Here he is ! — Hail, hail, hail to great 
Gaesar ! " 

At the imminent risk of tumbling off her plat- 
form, she bent low down to reach under the table 
for the blue cloth which covered her store of rotten 
apples, snatched it off, and waved it with frantic 
enthusiasm, as though her elderly heart had sud- 
denly gone forth to the very man for whom a mo- 
ment ago she had been ready to sell her disgusting 
missiles. And still she shouted in ringing tones, 
" Hail, hail, Caesar ! " again and again, with all her 
might, till there was no breath left in her over- 
buxom, panting breast, and her round face was 
purple with the effort. Nay, her emotion was so 
vehement that the bright tears streamed down her 
fat cheeks. 

And every one near was shrieking like the apple- 
woman, " Hail, Caesar ! " and it was only where the 
crowd was densest that a sharp whistle now and 
then rent the roar of acclamations. 

Diodoros, meanwhile, had turned to look at the 
main entrance, and, carried away by the universal 
desire to see, had perched himself on an unopened 
case of dried figs. His tall figure now towered far 
above the throng, and he set his teeth as he heard 
the old woman, almost speechless with delight, gasp 
out: 

" Lovely ! wonderful ! He would never have 
found the like in Rome. Here, among us — " 

But the cheers of the multitude now drowned 
every other sound. Fathers or mothers who had 



156 A THORNY PATH. 

children with them lifted them up as high as they 
could ; where a small man stood behind a tall one, 
way was willingly made, for it would have been a 
shame to hinder his view of such a spectacle. Many 
had already seen the great monarch in his shining, 
golden chariot, drawn by four splendid horses ; but 
such an array of torch-bearers as now preceded 
Caracalla was a thing never seen within the mem- 
ory of the oldest or most traveled man. Three ele- 
phants marched before him and three came behind, 
and all six carried in their trunks blazing torches, 
which they held now low and now aloft to light his 
road. To think that beasts could be trained to 
such a service ! And that here, in Alexandria, such 
a display could be made before the haughty and 
pampered Romans ! 

The chariot stood still, and the black Ethiopians 
who guided the huge four-footed torch-bearers took 
the three leaders to join their fellows behind the 
chariot. This really was a fine sight ; this could not 
but fill the heart of every one who loved his native 
town with pride and delight. For what should a man 
ever shout himself hoarse, if not for such a splen- 
did and unique show ? Diodoros himself could not 
take his eyes off the elephants. At first he was de- 
lighted with them, but presently the sight annoyed 
him even more than it had pleased him; for .he 
reflected that the tyrant, the villain, his deadly 
enemy, would certainly take to himself the applause 
bestowed on the clever beasts. With this, he grasped 
the reed pipe in the breast of his tunic. He had 
been on the point of using it before now, to retaliate 
on Melissa for some portion of the pain she had 
inflicted on him. At this thought, however, the 
paltriness of such revenge struck him with horror, 
and with a hasty impulse he snapped the pipe in 



A THORNY* PATH. 157 

two, and flung the pieces on the ground in front of 
the apple-stall. The old woman observed it and 
exclaimed : 

" Ay, ay, such a sight makes one forgive a great 
deal " ; but he turned his back on her in silence, and 
joined his friend at the appointed spot. 

They made their way without difficulty to the 
seats reserved for the senators' families, and when 
they had taken their places, the young man replied 
but briefly to the sympathetic inquiries as to his 
health which were addressed to him by his ac- 
quaintances. His friend Timon gazed anxiously 
into his handsome but pale, sad face, as Diodoros 
sat crushed and absorbed in thought. He would 
have liked to urge him to quit the scene at once, for 
the seats just opposite were those destined to Caesar 
and his court — among them, no doubt, Melissa. In 
the dim light which still prevailed in the vast amphi- 
theatre it was impossible to recognize faces. But 
there would soon be a blaze of light, and what 
misery must await the hapless victim of her faith- 
lessness, still so far from perfect health ! After the 
glare of light outside, which was almost blinding, 
the twilight within was for the moment a relief to 
Diodoros. His weary limbs were resting, a pleasant 
smell came up from the perfumed fountains in the 
arena, and his eyes, which could not here rest on 
anything to gratify him, were fixed on vacancy. 

And yet it was a comfort to him to think that 
he had broken his pipe. It would have disgraced 
him to whistle it ; and, moreover, the tone would 
have reached the ear of the noble lady who had ac- 
companied Melissa, and whom he himself had, only 
yesterday, revered as a second mother. 

Loud music now struck up, he heard shouts and 
cheers, and just above him — for it could only pro- 



158 A THORNY PATH. 

ceed 'from the uppermost tiers — there was an ex- 
traordinary tumult. Still he paid no heed, and as he 
thought of that matron the question suddenly arose 
in his mind, whether she would have consented to 
be seen with Melissa if she thought that the girl was 
indeed capable of ruthless falsehood or any other 
unworthy act. He, who never missed a show in 
the arena, had never seen the lady Euryale here. 
She could hardly have come to-day for her own 
pleasure; she had come, then, for Melissa's sake; 
and yet she knew that the girl was betrothed to 
him. Unless Caesar had commanded the matron's 
presence, Melissa must still be worthy of the esteem 
and affection of this best of women ; and at this 
reflection Hope once more raised her head in his 
tortured soul. 

He now suddenly wished that brighter light 
might dispel the gloom which just now he had 
found so restful; for the lady Euryale's demeanor 
would show him whether Melissa were still a vir- 
tuous maiden. If the matron were as friendly with 
her as ever, her heart was perhaps still his ; it was 
not the splendor of the purple that had led her 
astray, but the coercion of the tyrant. 

His silent reflections were here interrupted by 
the loud sounding of trumpets, battle-cries, and, 
immediately after, the fall of some heavy body, 
followed by repeated acclamations, noisy outcries, 
and the applause of those about him. Not till 
then had he been aware that the performances 
had begun. Below him, indeed, on the arena from 
which he had not once raised his eyes, nothing was 
to be seen on the yellow sand but the scented fount- 
ain and a shapeless body, by which a second and a 
third were soon lying ; but overhead something was 
astir, and, from the right-hand side, bright rays 



A THORNY PATH. 



159 



flashed across the wide ' space. Above the vast 
circle of seats, arranged on seven tiers, suns and 
huge, strangely shaped stars were seen, which shed 
a subdued, many-tinted radiance; and what the 
youth saw over his head was not the vault of heaven, 
which to-night bent over his native city darkened 
by clouds, but a velarium of immense size on which 
the nocturnal firmament was depicted. This cov- 
ered in the whole of the open space. Every con- 
stellation which rose over Alexandria was plainly 
recognizable. Jupiter and Mars, Caesar's favorites, 
outdid the other planets in size and brightness ; and 
in the center of this picture of the sky, which slowly 
revolved round it, stars were set to form the let- 
ters of Caracalla's names, Bassianus and Antoninus. 
But their light, too, was dim, and veiled as it were 
with clouds. Soft music was heard from these arti- 
ficial heavens, and in the stratum of air immediately 
beneath, the blare of war-trumpets and battle-cries 
were heard. Thus all eyes were directed upward, 
and Diodoros's with the rest. 

He perceived, with amazement, that the givers 
of the "entertainment, in their anxiety to set some- 
thing absolutely new before their imperial guest, 
had arranged that the first games should take place 
in the air. A battle was being fought overhead, on 
a level with the highest places, in a way that must 
surely be a surprise even to the pampered Romans. 
Black and gold barks were jostling each other in 
mid-air, and their crews were fighting with the 
energy of despair. The Egyptian myth of the gods 
of the great lights who sail the celestial ocean in 
golden barks, and of the sun-god who each morning 
conquers the demons of darkness, had suggested 
the subject of this performance. 

The battle between the Spirits of Darkness and 



l6o A THORNY PATH. 

of Light was to be fought out high above the best 
rows of seats occupied by Caesar and his court ; and 
the combatants were living men, for the most part 
such as had been condemned to death or to the hard- 
est forced labor. The black vessels were manned 
by negroes, the golden by fair-haired criminals, and 
they had embarked readily enough ; for some of 
them would escape from the fray with only a few 
wounds and some quite unhurt, and each one was 
resolved to use his weapons so as to bring the fright- 
ful combat to a speedy end. 

The woolly-haired blacks did not indeed know 
that they had been provided with loosely made 
swords which would go to pieces at the first shock, 
and with shields which could not resist a serious 
blow ; while the fair-haired representatives of the 
light were supplied with sharp and strong weapons 
of offense and defense. At any cost the spirits of 
darkness must not be allowed to triumph over those 
of light. Of what value was a negro's life, espe- 
cially when it was already forfeited ? 

While Euryale and Melissa sat with eyes averted 
from the horrible scene going on above them, and 
the matron, holding her young companion's hand, 
whispered to her : 

" O child, child ! to think that I should be com- 
pelled to bring you here ! " loud applause and up- 
roarious clapping surrounded them on every side. 

The gem-cutter Heron, occupying one of the 
foremost cushioned seats, radiant with pride and 
delight in the red-bordered toga of his new dignity, 
clapped his big hands with such vehemence that his 
immediate neighbors w^re almost deafened. He, 
too, had been badly received, on his arrival, with 
shrill whistling, but he had been far from troubling 
himself about that. But when a troop of " Greens" 



A THORNY PATH. i6i 

had met him, just in front of the imperial dais, 
shouting brutal abuse in his face, he had paused, 
chucked the nearest man under the chin with his 
powerful fist, and fired a storm of violent epithets 
at the rest. Thanks to the lictors, he had got off 
without any harm, and as soon as he found himself 
among friends and men of rank, on whom he looked 
in speechless respect, he had recovered his spirits. 
He was looking forward with intense satisfaction to 
the moment when he might ask Caesar what he now 
thought of Alexandria. 

Like his father, Alexander was intent on the 
bloody struggle^— gazing upward with breathless 
interest as the combatants tried to fling each other 
into the yawning depth below them. But at the 
same time he nevei* for an instant forgot the insults 
he had endured outside. How deeply he felt them 
was legible in his clouded face. Only once did a 
smile pass over it — when, toward the end of this 
first fight, the place was made lighter, he perceived 
in the row of seats next above him the daughter of 
his neighbor Skopas, pretty Ino, whom but a few 
days since he had vowed to love. He was con- 
scious of having treated her badly, and given her 
the right to call him faithless. Toward her, indeed, 
he had been guilty of treachery, and it had really 
weighed on his soul. Their eyes met, and she gave 
him to understand in the plainest way that she had 
heard him stigmatized as Caesar's spy, and had be- 
lieved the calumny. The mere sight of him seemed 
to fill her with anger, and she did her utmost to 
show him that she had quickly found a substitute 
for him ; and it was to Alexander, no doubt, that 
Ktesias, her young kinsman, who had long paid her 
his addresses, owed the kindliness with which Ino 
now gazed into his eyes. This was some comfort 

35 



1 62 A THORNY PATH. 

to the luckless, banished lover. On her account, at 
any rate, he need reproach himself no longer. 

Diodoros was sitting opposite to him, and his 
attention, too, was frequently interrupted. 

The flashing swords and torches in the hands of 
the Spirits of Light, and the dimly gleaming stars 
above their heads, had not so far dispelled the dark- 
ness as that the two young people could identify each 
other. Diodoros, indeed, even throughout this ab- 
sorbing fight, had frequently glanced at the imperial 
seats, but had failed to distinguish his beloved from 
the other women in Caracalla's immediate vicinity. 
But it now grew lighter, for, while the battle was as 
yet undecided, a fresh bark, full of Spirits of Light, 
flourishing their torches, was unexpectedly launched 
to support their comrades, and Heaven seemed to 
have sent them forth to win the fight, which had 
already lasted longer than the masters of the cere- 
monies had thought possible. 

The wild shouts of the combatants and the yells 
of the wounded had long since drowned the soft 
music of the spheres above their heads. The call 
of tubas and bugles rang without ceasing through 
the great building, to the frequent accompaniment 
of the most horrible sound of all in this hideous 
spectacle — the heavy fall of a dead man dropping 
from above into the gulf. 

But this dreadful thiid was what gave rise to the 
loudest applause among the spectators, falling on 
their satiated ears as a new sound. This frenzied 
fight in the air, such as had never before been seen, 
gave rise to the wildest delight, for it led the eye, 
which was wont in this place to gaze downward, in 
a direction in which it had never yet been attracted. 
And what a glorious spectacle it was when black and 
white wrestled together ! How well the contrast of 



A THORNY PATH; 163 

color distinguished the individual combatants, even 
when they clung together in close embrace ! And 
when, toward the end of the struggle, a bark was 
overturned bodily, and some of the antagonists 
would not be parted, even as they fell, trying to 
kill each other in their rage and hatred, the very 
wall^ of the great structure shook with the wild 
clamor and applause of thousands of every degree. 

Only once did the roar of approval reach a 
higher pitch, and that was after the battle was ended, 
at what succeeded. Hardly had the victorious Spir- 
its of Light been seen to stand up in their barks, 
waving their torches, to receive from fluttering genii 
wreaths of laurel which they flung down to where 
Caesar sat, than a perfumed vapor, emanating from, 
the place where the painted sky met the wall of the 
circular building, hid the whole of the upper part of 
it from the sight of the spectators. The music 
stopped, and from above there came a strange and 
ominous growling, hissing, rustling, and crackling. 
A dull light, dimmer even than before, filled the 
place, and anxious suspicions took possession of the 
ten thousand spectators. 

What was happening? Was the velarium on 
fire ; had the machinery for lighting up refused to 
work ; and must they remain in this uncomfortable 
twilight ? 

Here and there a shout of indignation was heard, 
or a shrill whistle from the capricious mob. But 
the mist had already gradually vanished, and those 
who gazed upward could s6e that the velarium with 
the sun and stars had made way for a black surface. 
No one knew whether this was the real cloudy sky, 
or whether another, colorless awning closed them 
in. . But suddenly the woven roof parted; invisible 
hands drew away the two halves. Quick, soft musiq 



164 A THORNY PATH. 

began as if at a signal from a magician, and at the 
same time such a flood of light burst down into the 
theatre that every one covered his eyes with his 
hand to avoid being blinded. The full glory of 
sunshine followed on the footsteps of night, like a 
triumphant chorus on a dismal mourning chant. 

The machinists of Alexandria had done wonders. 
The Romans, who, even at the night performances of 
the festival of Flora, had never seen the like, hailed 
the effect with a storm of applause which showed 
no signs of ceasing, for, when th^y had sufficiently 
admired the source of the light which flooded the 
theatre, reflected from numberless mirrors, and 
glanced round the auditorium, they began again to 
applaud With hands and voices. At a giyen signal 
thousands of lights appeared round the tiers of seats, 
and, if the splendor of the entertainment answered 
at all to that of the Alexandrian spectators, some- 
thing fine indeed was to be expected. 

It was now possible to see the beauty of the 
women and the costliness of their attire ; not till 
now had the precious stones shown their flashing 
and changeful radiance. How many gardens and 
lotus-pools must have been plundered, how many 
laurel-groves stripped to supply the wreaths which 
graced every head in the upper rows ! And to look 
round those ranks and note the handsome raiment 
in which men and women alike were arrayed, sug- 
gested a belief that all the inhabitants of Alexandria 
must be rich. Wherever the eye turned, something 
beautiful or magnificent was to be seen ; and the 
numerous delightful pictures which crowded on the 
sight were framed with massive garlands of lotos 
and mallow, lilies and roses, olive and laurel, tall 
papyrus and waving palm, branches of pine and 
willow — here hanging in thick festoons, there twin^ 



A THORNY PATH. 165 

•ing found the columns or wreathing the pilasters 
and backs of seats. 

Of all the couples in this incomparable amphi- 
theatre one alone neither saw nor heard all that 
was going on. Scarcely had the darkness given 
way to light, when Melissa's eyes met those of her 
lover, and recognition was immediately followed 
by a swift inquiry and reply which filled the un- 
happy pair with revived hopes. Melissa's eyes told 
Diodoros that she loved him and him alone, and she 
read in his that he could never give her up. Still, 
his also expressed the doubt and anxiety of his tor- 
tured soul, and sent question after question across 
to Melissa. 

And she understood the mute appeal as well as 
though looks were words. Without heeding the cu- 
rious crowd about her, or considering the danger of 
such audacity, she took up her nosegay and waved 
it toward him as though to refresh him with its fra- 
grance, and then pressed a hasty kiss on the finest 
of the half-opened buds. His responsive gesture 
showed that she had been understood, for her lover's 
expressive eyes beamed with unqualified love and 
gratitude. Never, she thought, had he gazed more 
fervently in her face, and again she bent over the 
bunch of roses. 

But even in the midst of her newly found hap- 
piness her cheeks tingled with maidenly modesty at 
her own boldness. Too happy to regret what she 
had done, but still anxious lest the friend whose 
opinion was all in all to her should disapprove, she 
forgot time and place, and, laying her head on Eu- 
ryale's shoulder, looked up at her in inquiry with 
her large eyes as though imploring forgiveness. 
The matron understood, for she had followed the 
girl's glance and felt what it was that stirred her 



l66 A THORNY PATH. 

heart ; and, little thinking of the joy she was giving 
to a third person, she clasped her closely and kissed 
her on the temple, regardless of the people about 
them. 

At this Diodoros felt as though he had won the 
prize in a race; and his friend Timon, whose artistic 
eye was feasting on the magnificent scene, started 
at the vehement and ardent pressure which Diodoros 
bestowed on his hand. 

What had come over the poor, suffering youth 
whom he, Timon, had escorted to the Circus out of 
sheer compassion ? His eyes sparkled, and he held 
his head as high as ever. What was the meaning of 
his declaring that everything would go well with 
him now ? But it was in vain that he questioned 
the youth, for Diodoros could not reveal, even to 
his best friend, what it was that made him happy. 
It was enough for him to know that Melissa loved 
him, and that the woman to whom he looked up with 
enthusiastic reverence esteemed her as highly as 
ever. And now, for the first time, he began to feel 
ashamed of his doubts of Melissa. How could he, 
who had known her from childhood, have believed 
of her anything so base and foul ? It must be some 
strong compulsion which bound her to Caesar, and 
she could never have looked at him thus unless she 
had some scheme — in which, perhaps, the lady 
Euryale meant to abet her — for escaping her im- 
perial suitor before it was too late. Yes, it must be 
so ; and the oftener he gazed at her the more con- 
vinced he felt. 

Now he rejoiced in the blaze of light about him, 
•for it showed him his beloved. The words which 
Euryale had whispered in her ear must have been 
an admonition to prudence, for she only rarely 
bestowed on him a loving glance, and he acknowl- 



A THORNY PATri. 167 

edged that the mute but eager exchange of signals 
Would have been fraught with danger for both of 
them. 

The first sudden illumination had revealed 
too many things to distract the attention of the 
spectators, including Caesar's, for their proceedings 
to be observed. Now curiosity was to some extent 
satisfied, and even Diodoros felt that reserve was 
imperative. 

Caracalla had not yet shown himself to the 
people. A golden screen, in which there were holes 
for him to look through without being seen, hid 
him from public gaze ; still Diodoros could recog- 
nize those who were admitted to his presence. First 
came the givers of the entertainment; then the 
Parthian envoys, and some delegates from the mu- 
nicipal authorities of the town. Finally, Seleukus 
presented the wives of the magnates who had shared 
with him the cost of this display, and among these, 
all magnificently dressed, the lady Berenike shone 
supreme by the pride of her demeanor and the 
startling magnificence of her attire. As her large 
eyes met those of Caesar with a flash of defiance, he 
frowned, and remarked satirically : 

" It seems to be the custom here to mourn in 
much splendor ! " 

But Berenike promptly replied : 

" It has nothing to do with mourning. It is in 
honor of the sovereign who commanded the presence 
of the mourner at the Circus." 

Diodoros could not see the flame of rage in 
Caesar's threatening eye, nor hear his reply to the 
audacious matron : 

"This is a misapprehension of how to do me 
honor, but an opportunity will occur for teaching 
the Alexandrians better." 



l68 A THORNY PATH. 

Even across the amphitheatre the youth could 
see the sudden flush and pallor of the lady's haughty 
face ; and immediately after, Macrinus, the praetorian 
prefect, approached Caracalla with the master of 
the games, the superintendent of the school of gladi- 
ators. 

At the same time Diodoros heard his next neigh- 
bor, a member of the city senate, say : 

" How quietly it is going off ! My proposal that 
Caesar should come in to a dim light, so as to keep 
him and his unpopular favorites out of sight for a 
while, has worked capitally. Who could the mob 
whistle at, so long as they could not see one from 
another ? Now they are too much delighted to be 
uproarious. Caesar's bride, of all others, has reason 
to thank me. And she reminds me of the Persian 
warriors who, before going into battle, bound cats 
to their bucklers because they knew that the Egyp- 
tian foe would not shoot at them so long as the 
sacred beasts were exposed to being hit by his 
arrows." 

" What do you mean by that ? " asked another, 
and received the brisk reply : 

" The lady Euryale is the cat who protects the 
damsel. Out of respect for her, and for fear of 
hurting her, too, her companion has hitherto been 
spared even by those fellows up there." 

And he pointed to a party of *! Greens " who were 
laying their heads together in one of the topmost 
tiers. But his friend replied : 

** Something besides that keeps them within 
bounds. The three beardless fellows just behind 
them belong to the city watch, who are scattered 
through the general mass like raisins in dough- 
cakes." 

"That is very judicious," replied the senator. 



A THORNY PATH. 169 

" We might otherwise have had to quit the Circus 
a great deal quicker than we came in. We shall 
hardly get home with dry garments as it is. Look 
how the lights up there are flaring; you can hear 
the lashing of the storm, and such flashes are not 
produced by machinery. Zeus is preparing his bolts, 
and if the storm bursts — " 

Here his discourse was interrupted by the sound 
of trumpets, mingling with the roar of distant thun- 
der following a vivid flash. The procession now 
began, which was the preliminary to every such per- 
formance. 

The statues of the gods had, before Caesar's ar- 
rival, been placed on the pedestals erected for them 
to prevent any risk of a demonstration at the ap- 
pearance of the deified emperors. The priests now 
first marched solemnly round these statues, and 
Timotheus poured a libation on the sand to Serapis, 
while the priest of Alexandria did the same to the 
tutelary hero of the town. Then the masters of the 
games, the gladiators, and beast-fighters came out, 
who were to make proof of their skill. As the 
priests approached Caesar's dais, Caracalla came 
forward and greeted the spectators, thus showing 
himself for the first time. 

While he was still sitting behind the screen, he 
had sent for Melissa, who had obeyed the command, 
under the protection of Euryale, and he had spoken 
to her graciously. He now took no further notice 
of her, of her father, or her brother, and by his or- 
ders their places had been separated by some little 
distance from his. By the advice of Timotheus he 
would not let her be seen at his side till the stars 
had once more been consultfed, and he would then 
conduct Melissa to the Circus as his wife — the day 
after to-morrow, perhaps. He thanked the matron 



170 



A THORNY PATH. 



for having escorted Melissa, and added, with a brag- 
gart air of virtue, that the world should see that 
he, too, could sacrifice the most ardent wish of his 
heart to moral propriety. 

The elephant torch-bearers had greatly delighted 
him, and in the expectation of seeing Melissa again, 
and of a public recognition that he had won the 
fairest maid there, he had come into the Circus in 
the best spirits. He still wore his natural expres- 
sion ; yet now and then his brow was knit, for he 
was haunted by the eyes of Seleukus's wife. The 
haughty woman — " that bedizened Niobe '* he had 
contemptuously called her in speaking to Macrinus 
— had appeared to him as an avenging goddess; 
strangely enough, every time he thought of her, he 
remembered, too, the consul Vindex and his nephew, 
whose execution Melissa's intercession had only 
hastened, and he was vexed now that he had not 
lent an ear to her entreaties. The fact that the 
name Vindex signified an avenger disturbed him 
greatly, and he could no more get it out of his mind 
than the image of the "Niobe" with her ominous 
dark eyes. 

He would see her no more ; and in this he was 
helped by the gladiators, for they now approached 
him, and their frantic enthusiasm kept him for some 
time from all other thoughts. While they flourished 
their weapons — some the sword and buckler, and 
others the not less terrible net and harpoon — the 
time-honored cry rose from their husky throats in 
eager acclamation : " Hail, Caesar ! those about to 
die salute thee ! " Then, in rows of ten men each, 
they crossed the arena at a rapid pace. 

Between the first and second group one man 
swaggered past alone, as though he were something 
apart, and he strutted and rolled as he walked with 



A THORNY PATH. 



171 



pompous self-importance. It was his prescriptive 
right, and in his broad, coarse features, with' a snub 
nose, thick lips, and white, flashing teeth like those 
of a beast of prey, it was easy to see that the adver- 
sary would fare but ill who should try to humble 
him. And yet he was not tall ; but on his deep 
chest, his enormous square shoulders, and short, 
bandy legs, the muscles stood out like elastic balls, 
showing the connoisseur that in strength he was a 
giant. A loin-cloth was all he wore, for he was 
proud of the many scars which gleamed red and 
white on his fair skin. He had pushed back his 
little bronze helmet, so that the terrible aspect of 
the left side of his face might not be lost on the 
populace. While he was engaged in fighting three 
panthers and a lion, the lion had torn out his eye 
and with it part of his cheek. His name was Ta- 
rautas, and he was known throughout the empire as 
the most brutal of gladiators, for he had also earned 
the further privilege of never fighting but for life 
or death, and never under any circumstances either 
granting or asking quarter. Where he was engaged 
corpses strewed the plain. 

Caesar knew that he himself had been nick- 
named Tarautas after this man, and he was not ill 
pleased ; for, above all things, he aimed at being 
thought strong and terrible, and this the gladiator 
was without a peer in his own rank of life. They 
knew each other : Tarautas had received many a gift 
from his imperial patron after hard-won victories 
in which his blood had flowed. And now, as the 
scarred veteran, who, puffed up with conceit, walked 
singly and apart in the long train of gladiators, cast 
-a roving and haughty glance on the ranks of specta- 
tors, he was filled out of due time with the longing 
to center all eyes on himself, the one aim of his so 



^»^2 A THORNY PATH. 

frequently risking his life in these games. His chest 
swelled, he braced up the tension of his supple 
sinews, and as he passed the imperial seats he 
whirled his short sword round his head, describing 
a circle in the air, with such skill and such persistent 
rapidity, that it appeared like a disk of flashing 
steel. At the same time his harsh, powerful voice 
bellowed out, " Hail, Caesar ! " sounding above the 
shouts of his comrades like the roar of a lion ; and 
Caracalla, who had not yet vouchsafed a friendly 
word or pleasant look to any Alexandrian, waved 
his hand graciously again and again to this auda- 
cious monster, whose strength and skill delighted 
him. 

This was the instant for which the " Greens *' in 
the third tier were waiting. No one could prohibit 
their applauding the man whom Caesar himself ap- 
proved, so they forthwith began shouting " Tarau- 
tas ! " with all their might. They knew that this 
would suggest the comparison between Caesar and 
the sanguinary wretch whose name had been applied 
to him, and all who were eager to give expression 
to their vexation or dissatisfaction took the hint 
and joined in the outcry. Thus in a moment the 
whole amphitheatre was ringing with the name of 
"Tarautas!" 

At first it rose here and there ; but soon, no one 
knew how, the whole crowd in the tipper ranks 
joined in one huge chorus, giving free vent to their 
long- suppressed irritation with childish and increas- 
ing uproar, shouting the word with steady reitera- 
tion and a sort of involuntary rhythm. Before long 
it sounded as though the multitude must have prac- 
ticed the mad chant which swelled to a perfect roar. 

" Taräu — Taräu — Taräutas ! " and, as is always 
the case when a breach has been made in the dam, 



A THORNY path;. • 173 

one after another joined in, with here the shrill 
whistle of a reed pipe and there the clatter of a 
rattle. Mingling with these were the angry out- 
cries of those whom the li'ctors or guardians of the 
peace had laid hands on, or their indignant com- 
panions; and the thunder outside rolled a solemn 
accompaniment to the mutinous tumult within. 

Caesar's scowling brow showed that a storm 
threatened in that quarter also ; and no sooner had 
he discerned the aim of the crowd than, foaming 
with rage, he commanded Macrinus to restore order. 

Then, above the chaos of voices, trumpet-calls 
were sounded. The masters of the games perceived 
that, if only they could succeed in riveting the at- 
tention of the mob by some exciting or interesting 
scene, that would surely silence the demonstration 
which was threatening ruin to the whole commu- 
nity ; so the order was at once given to begin the 
performance with the most important and effective 
scene with which it had been intended that the 
whole should conclude. 

The spectacle was to represent a camp of the 
Alemanni, surprised and seized by Roman warriors. 
In this there was a covert compliment to Caesar, 
who, after a doubtful victory over that valiant 
people, had assumed the name of Alemannicus. 
Part of the gladiators, clothed in skins, represented 
the barbarians, and wore long flowing wigs of red 
or yellow hair ; others played the part of Roman 
troops, who were to conquer them. The Alemanni 
were all condemned criminals, who were allowed no 
armor, and only blunt swords wherewith to defend 
themselves. But life and freedom were promised to 
the- women if, after the camp was seized, they 
wounded themselves with the sharp knives with 
which each one was provided, at least deeply enough 



174 



• A THORNY PATH. 



to draw blood. And any who succeeded in feign- 
ing death really deceptively were to earn a special 
reward. Among the Germans there were, too, a 
few gladiators of exceptional stature, armed with 
sharp weapons, so as to defer the decision for a 
while. 

In a few minutes, and under the eyes of the 
spectators, carts, cattle, and horses were placed to- 
gether in a camp, and surrounded by a wall of tree- 
trunks, stones, and shields. Meanwhile shouts and 
whistles were still heard ; nay, when Tarautas came 
out on the arena in the highly decorated armor of 
a Roman legate, at the head of a troop of heavily 
armed men, and again greeted the emperor, the 
commotion began afresh. But Caracalla's patience 
was exhausted, and the high-priest saw by his pale 
cheeks and twitching eyelids what was passing in 
his mind ; so, inspired by the fervent hope of avert- 
ing some incalculable disaster from his fellow-citi- 
zens, he took his place in front of the statue of the 
god, and, lifting up his hands, he began : 

" In the name of Serapis, O Macedonians ! ** His 
deep, ringing tones sounded above the voices of the 
insurgents in the upper rows, and there was silence. 
Not a sound was to be heard but the long-drawn 
howling of the wind, and now and then the flap of a 
strip of cloth torn from the velarium by the gale. 
Mingling with these might be heard the uncanny 
hooting of owls and daws which the illumination 
had brought out of their nests in the cornice, and 
which the storm was now driving in again. 

Timotheus, in a clear and audible address, now 
appealed to his audience to remain quiet, not to 
disturb the splendid entertainment here set before 
them, and above all to remember that great Caesar, 
the divine ruler of the world, was in their midst, aa 



A THORNY PATH. J75. 

honor to each and all. As the guest of the most 
hospitable city on earth, their illustrious sovereign 
had a right to expect from every Alexandrian the 
most ardent endeavors to make his stay here de- 
lightful. It was his part as high^riest to uplift his 
waraiflg voice in the name of the greatest of the 
gods, that the ill-will of a few malcontents might 
not give rise to an idea in the mind of their beloved 
guest that the natives of Alexandria were blind to 
the blessings for which every citizen had to thank 
his beneficent rule. 

A shrill whistle here interrupted his discourse, 
and a voice shouted : " What blessings ? We know 
of none." 

But Timotheus was not to be checked, and went 
on more vehemeotly : 

" All of you who, by the grace of Caesar, have 
been made Roman citizens — *' 

But again a voice broke in — the speaker was the 
overseer of the granaries of Seleukus, sitting in the 
second tier — " And do you suppose we do not know 
what the honor costs us ? " 

This query was heartily applauded, and then 
suddenly, as if by magic, a perfect chorus arose, 
chanting a distich which one man in the crowd had 
first given out and then two or three had repeated, 
to which a fourth had given a sort of tune, till it 
was shouted by every one present at the very top 
of his voice, with marked application to him of 
whom it spoke. From the topmost row of places, 
on every side of the amphitheatre, rang out the fol- 
lowing lines, which but a moment before no one 
had ever heard : 

" Death to the living, to pay for burying those that are dead ; 
Since, what the taxes have spared, soldiers have ruthlessly 
seized." 



176 A THORNY PATH. 

And the words certainly came from the hearts 
of the people, for they seemed never weary of re- 
peating them ; and it was not till a tremendous clap 
of thunder shook the very walls that several were 
silent and looked •up with increasing alarm. The 
moment's pause was seized on to begin the fight. 
Caesar bit his lip in powerless fury, and his hatred 
of the towns-people, who had thus so plainly given 
him to understand their sentiments, was rising from 
one minute to the next. He felt it a real misfor- 
tune that he was unable to punish on the spot the 
insult thus offered him ; swelling with rage, he re- 
membered a speech made by Caligula, and wished 
the town had but one head, that he might sever it 
from the body. The blood throbbed so fiercely in 
his temples, and there was such a singing in his 
ears, that for some little time he neither saw nor 
heard what was going on. This terrible agitation 
might cost him yet some hours of great suffering. 

But he need no longer dread them so much ; for 
there sat the living remedy which he believed he 
had secured by the strongest possible ties. 

How fair she was! And, as he looked round 
once more at Melissa, he observed that her eye was 
turned on him with evident anxiety. At this a light 
seemed to dawn in his clouded soul, and he was 
once more conscious of the love which had blos- 
somed in his heart. But it would never do to make 
her who had wrought the miracle so soon the con- 
fidante of his hatred. He had seen her angry, had 
seen her weep, and had seen her smile ; and within 
the next few days, which were to make him a happy 
man instead of a tortured victim, he longed only to 
see her great eyes sparkle and her lips overflow 
with words of love, joy, and gratitude. His score 
with the Alexandrians must be settled later, and it 



A THORNY PATH. 177 

was in his power to make them atone with their 
blood and bitterly rue the deeds of this night. 

He passed his hand over his furrowed brow, as 
though to wake himself from a bad dream ; nay, he 
even found a smile when next his eyes met hers ; 
and those spectators to whom his aspect seemed 
more absorbing than the horrible slaughter in the 
arena, looked at each other in amazement, for the 
indifference or the dissimulation, whichever it might 
be, with which Caesar regarded this unequaled scene 
of bloodshed, seemed to them quite incredible. 

Never, since his very first visit to a circus, had 
Caracalla left unnoticed for so long a time the pro- 
gress of such a battle as this. However, nothing 
very remarkable had so far occurred, for the actual 
seizure of the camp had but just begun with the 
massacre of the Alemanni and the suicide of the 
women. 

At this moment the gladiator Tarautas, as nim- 
ble as a cat and as bloodthirsty as a hungry wolf, 
sprang on to one of the enemy's piled-up wagons, 
and a tall swordsman, with a bear-skin over his 
shoulder, and long, reddish-gold hair, flew to meet 
him. 

This was no sham German ! Caracalla knew 
the man. He had been brought to Rome among 
the captive chiefs, and, as he had proved to be a 
splendid horseman, he had found employment in 
Caesar's stables. His conduct had always been 
blameless till, on the day when Caracalla had en- 
tered Alexandria, he had, in a drunken fit, killed 
first the man set over him, a hot-headed Gaul, and 
then the two lictors who had attempted to appre- 
hend him. He was condemned to death, and had 
been placed on the German side to fight for his life 
in the arena. 

36 



178 



A THORNY PATH. 



And how he fought ! How he defied the most 
determined of gladiators, and parried his strokes 
with his short sword ! This was a combat really 
worth watching ; indeed, it so captivated Caracalla 
that he forgot everything else. The name of the 
German's antagonist had been applied to him — 
Caesar. Just now the many-voiced yell " Tarautas ! " 
had been meant for him ; and, accustomed as he was 
to read an omen in every incident, he said to him- 
self, and called Fate to witness, that the gladiator's 
doom would foreshadow his own. If Tarautas fell, 
then Caesar's days were numbered ; if he triumphed, 
then a long and happy life would be his. 

He could leave the decision to Tarautas with 
perfect confidence ; he was the strongest gladiator 
in the empire, and he was fighting with a sharp 
sword against the blunt one in his antagonist's 
hand, who probably had forgotten in the stable 
how to wield the sword as he had done of yore. 
But the German was the son of a chief, and had 
followed arms from his earliest youth. Here it was 
defense for dear life, however glorious it might be 
to die under the eyes of the man whom he had 
learned to honor as the conqueror and tyrant of 
many nations, among them his own. So the strong 
and practiced athlete did his best. 

He, like his opponent, felt that the eyes of ten 
thousand were on him, and he also longed to purge 
himself of the dishonor which, by actual murder, he 
had brought on himself and on the race of which 
he was still a son. Every muscle of his powerful 
frame gained more rigid tension at the thought, 
and when he was presently hit by the sword of his 
hitherto unconquered foe, and felt the warm blood 
flow over his breast and left arm, he collected all his 
strength. With the battle-cry of his tribe, he flung 



A THORNY PATH. 



179 



his huge body on the gladiator. Heedless of the 
furious sword-thrust with which Tarautas returned 
the assault, he threw himself off the top of the 
packed wagon on to the stones of the camp inclos- 
sure, and the combatants rolled, locked together 
like one man, from the wall into the sand of the 
arena. 

Caracalla started as though he himself had been 
the injured victim, and watched, but in vain, to see 
the supple Tarautas, who had escaped such perils 
before now, free himself from the weight of the 
German's body. 

But the struggle continued to rage round the 
pair, and neither stirred a finger. At this Caesar, 
greatly disturbed, started to his feet, and desired 
Theocritus to make inquiry as to whether Tarautas 
were wounded or dead ; and while the favorite was 
gone he could not sit still. Agitated by distress- 
ing fears, he rose to speak first to one and then to 
another of his suite, only to drop on his seat again 
and glance once more at the butchery below. He 
was fully persuaded that his own end must be near, 
if indeed Tarautas were dead. At last he heard 
Theocritus's voice, and, as he turned to ask him the 
news, he met a look from the lady Berenike, who 
had risen to quit the theatre. 

He shuddered! — the image of Vindex and his 
nephew rose once more before his mind's eye ; at 
the same moment, however, Theocritus hailed him 
with the exclamation : 

*^ That fellow, Tarautas, is not a man at all ! I 
should call him an eel if he were not so broad- 
shouldered. The rascal is alive, and the physician 
says that in three weeks he will be ready again to 
fight four bears or two Alemanni ! " 

A light as of sudden sunshine broke on Caesar's 



l8o A THORNY PATH. 

face, and he was perfectly cheerful again, though a 
fearful clap of thunder rattled through the build- 
ing, and one of those deluges of rain which are 
known only in the south came pouring down into 
the open theatre, extinguishing the fires and lights," 
and tearing the velarium from its fastenings till it 
hung flapping in the wind and lashing the upper 
tiers of places, so as to drive the spectators to a 
hasty retreat. 

Men were flying, women screaming and sobbing, 
and the heralds loudly proclaimed that the per- 
formance was suspended, and would be resumed on 
the i^ext day but one. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

The amphitheatre was soon emptied, amid the 
flare of lightning and the crash and roll of thunder. 
Caracalla, thinking only of the happy omen of Ta- 
rautas's wonderful escape, called out to Melissa, 
with affectionate anxiety, to fly to shelter as quickly 
as possible ; a chariot was in waiting to convey her 
to the Serapeum. On this she humbly represented 
that she would rather be permitted to return un- 
der her brother's escort to her father's house, and * 
Caracalla cheerfully acceded. He had business on 
hand this night, which made it seem desirable to 
him that she should not be too near him. He 
should expect her brother presently at the Sera- 
peum. 

With his own hand he wrapped her in the cara- 
calla and hood which old Adventus was about to put 
on his master's shoulders, remarking, as he did so, 
that he had weathered worse storms in the field. 

Melissa thanked him with a blush, and, going 
close up to her, he whispered : " To-morrow, if 
Fate grants us gracious answers to the questions I 
shall put to her presently after this storm — to- 
morrow the horn of happiness will be filled to over- 
flowing for you and me. The thrifty goddess prom- 
ises to be lavish to me through you." 

Slaves were standing round with lighted lan- 
terns ; for the torches in the theatre were all ex- 



1 82 A THORNY PATH. 

tinguished) and the darkened auditorium lay like 
an extinct crater, in which a crowd of indistinguish- 
able figures were moving to and fro. It reminded 
him of Hades and a troop of descending spirits ; but 
he would not allow anything but what was pleasant 
to occupy his mind or eye. By a sudden impulse he 
took a lantern from one of the attendants, held it 
up above Melissa's head, and gazed long and ear- 
nestly into her brightly illuminated face. Then he 
dropped his hand with a sigh and said, as though 
speaking in a dream: "Yes, this is life! Now I 
begin to live." 

He lifted the dripping laurel crown from his 
head, tossed it into the arena, and added to Melissa : 

" Now, get under shelter at once, sweetheart. I 
have been able to see you this whole evening, even 
when the lamps were out ; for lightning gives light. 
Thus even the storm has brought me joy. Sleep 
well. I shall expect you early, as soon as I have 
bathed." 

Melissa wished him sound slumbers, and he re- 
plied, lightly : 

" If only all life were a dream, and if to-morrow 
I might but wake up, no longer the son of Severus, 
but Alexander ; and you, not Melissa, but Roxana, 
whom you so strongly resemble! To be sure I 
might find myself the gladiator Tarautas. But. 
then, who would you be ? And your stalwart father, 
who stands there defying the rain, certainly does not 
look like a vision, and this storm is not favorable to 
philosophizing." 

He kissed his hand to her, had a dry caracalla 
thrown over his shoulders, ordered Theocritus to 
take care of Tarautas and carry him a purse of gold 
— which he handed to the favorite — and then, pull- 
ing the hood over his head, led the way, followed 



A THORNY PATH. 183 

by his impatient courtiers ; but not till he had an- 
swered Heron, who had come forward to ask him 
what he thought of the mechanical arts of the Alex- 
andrians, desiring him to postpone that matter till 
the morrow. 

The storm had silenced the music. Only a few 
stanch trumpeters had remained in their places; 
and when they saw by the lanterns that Caesar had 
left the Circus, they sounded a fanfare after him, 
which followed the ruler of the world with a dull, 
hoarse echo. 

Outside, the street» were still crowded with peo- 
ple pouring out of the amphitheatre. Those of the 
commoner sort sought shelter under the archways 
of the building, or else hurried boldly home through 
the rain. Heron stood waiting at the entrance for his 
daughter, though the purple-hemmed toga was wet 
through and through. But she had, in fact, hurried 
out while he was pushing forward to speak to Caesar, 
and in his excitement overlooked everything else. 
The behavior of his fellow-citizens had annoyed 
him, and he had an obscure impression that it would 
be a blunder to claim Caesar's approval of anything 
they had done ; still, he had not self-control enough 
to suppress the question which had fluttered on his 
lips all through the performance. At last, in high 
dudgeon at the inconsiderateness of young people 
and at the rebuff he had met with — with the pros- 
pect, too, of a cold for his pains — he made his way 
homeward on foot. 

To Caracalla the bad weather was for once really 
an advantage, for it put a stop to the unpleasant 
demonstrations which the " Green " party had pre- 
pared for him on his way home. 

Alexander soon found the closed carruca in- 
tended for Melissa, and placed her in it as soon as 



1 84 A THORNY PATH. 

he had helped Euryale into her harmamaxa. He 
was astonished to find a man inside it, waiting for 
his sister. This was Diodoros, who, while Alexander 
was giving his directions to the charioteer, had, un- 
der cover of the darkness, sprung into the vehicle 
from the opposite side. An exclamation of surprise 
was followed by explanations and excuses, and the 
three young people, each with a heart full almost 
to bursting, drove off toward Heron's house. Their 
conveyance was already rolling over the pavement, 
while most of the magnates of the town were still 
waiting for their slaves to find their chariots or lit- 
ters. 

For the lovers this was a very different scene from 
the terrible one they had just witnessed in the Circus, 
for, in spite of the narrow space and total darkness 
in which they sat, and the rain rattling and splash- 
ing on the dripping black leather hood which shel- 
tered them, in their hearts they did not lack for 
sunshine. Caracalla's saying that the lightning, 
too, was light, proved true more than once in the 
course of their drive, for the vivid flashes which still 
followed in quick succession enabled the reunited 
lovers to exchange many confidences with their 
eyes, for which it would have been hard to find 
words. When both parties to a quarrel are con- 
scious of blame, it is more quickly made up than 
when one only needs forgiveness ; and the pair in 
the carruca were so fully prepared to think the best 
of each other that there was no need for Alexander's 
good offices to make them ready and willing to re- 
new their broken pledges. Besides, each had cause to 
fear for the other ; for Diodoros was afraid that the 
lady Euryale's power was not far-reaching enough 
to conceal Melissa from Caesar's spies, and Melissa 
trembled at the thought that the physician might 



A THORNY PATH. 185 

too soon betray to Caesar that she had been be- 
trothed before he had ever seen her, and to whom ; 
for, in that case, Diodoros would be the object of 
relentless pursuit. So she urged on her lover to 
embark, if possible, this very night. 

Hitherto Alexander had taken no part in the 
conversation. He could not forget the reception he 
h^d met with outside the amphitheatre. Euryale's 
presence had saved his sister from evil imputations, 
but had not helped him ; and even his gay spirits 
could make no head against the consciousness of 
being regarded by his fellow-citizens as a hired 
traitor. He had withdrawn to one of the back seats 
to see the performance ; for as soon as the theatre 
was suddenly lighted up, he had become the object 
of dark looks and threatening gestures. For the 
first time in his life he had felt compassion for the 
criminals torn by wild beasts, and for the wounded 
gladiators, whose companion in misfortune he 
vaguely felt himself to be. But, what was worst 
of all, he could not regard himself as altogether 
free from the reproach of having accepted a re- 
ward for the service he had so thoughtlessly ren- 
dered. 

Nor did he see the remotest possibility of ever 
making those whose opinion he cared for under- 
stand how it had come to pass that he should have 
acceded to the desire of the villain in the purple, 
now that his father, by showing himself to the peo- 
ple in the toga pretexta^ had set the seal to their 
basest suspicions. The thought that henceforth he 
could never hope to feel the grasp of an honest 
man*s hand gnawed at his heart. 

The esteem of Diodoros was dear to him, and, 
when his young comrade spoke to him, he felt at 
first as though he were doing him an unexpected 



y 



1 86 A THORNY PATH. 

honor ; but then he fell back into the suspicion that 
this was only for his sister's sake. 

The deep sigh that broke from him induced Me- 
lissa to speak a few words of comfort, and now the 
unhappy man's bursting heart overflowed. In elo- 
quent words he described to Diodoros and Melissa 
all he had felt, and the terrible consequences of his 
heedless folly, and as he spoke acute regret filled 
his eyes with tears. 

He had pronounced judgment on himself, and 
expected nothing of his friend but a little pity. 
But in the darkness Diodoros sought and found his 
hand, and grasped it fervently; and if Alexander 
could- but have seen his old playfellow's face, he 
would have perceived that his eyes glistened as he 
said what he could to encourage him to hope for 
better days. '^ 

Diodoros knew his friend well. He was incapa- 
ble of falsehood ; and his deed, which under a false 
light so easily assumed an aspect of villainy, had, 
in fact, been no more than an act of thoughtless- 
ness such as he had himself often lent a hand 
in. Alexander, however, seemed determined not 
to hear the comfort offered him by his sister and 
his friend. A flash of lightning revealed him to 
them, sitting with a bent head and his hands over 
his brow; and this gloomy vision of one who so 
lately had been the gayest of the gay troubled 
their revived happiness even more than the thought 
of the danger which, as each knew, threatened the 
others. 

As they passed the Temple of Artemis, which 
was brightly illuminated, reminding them that they 
were reaching their destination, Alexander at last 
looked up and begged the lovers to consider their 
immediate aifairs. His mind had remained clear, 



A THORNY PATH. 187 

and what he said showed that he had not lost sight 
of his sister's future. 

As soon as Melissa should have effected her es- 
cape, Caesar would undoubtedly seize, not only her 
lover, but his father as well. Diodoros must forth- 
with cross the lake and rouse Polybius and Praxilla, 
to warn them of the imminent danger, while Alexan- 
der undertook to hire a ship for the party. Argutis 
would await the fugitives in a tavern by the harbor, 
and conduct them on board the vessel which would 
be in readiness. Diodoros, who was not yet able to 
walk far, promised to avail himself of one of the 
litters waiting outside the Temple of Artemis. 

Just before the vehicle stopped, the lovers took 
leave. They arranged where and how they might 
have news of each other, and all they said, in brief 
words and a fervent parting kiss, in this moment, 
when death or imprisonment might await them, had 
the solemn purport of a vow. 

The swift horses stopped. Alexander hastily 
leaned over to his friend, kissed him on both cheeks, 
and whispered : 

" Take good care of her ; think of me kindly if 
we should never meet again, and tell the others that 
wild Alexander has played another fool's trick, at 
any rate, not a wicked one, however badly it may 
turn out for him." 

For the sake of the charioteer, who, after Me- 
lissa's flight, would be certainly cross-examined, 
Diodoros could make no reply. The carruca rattled 
off by the way by which it had come; Diodoros 
vanished in the darkness, and Melissa clasped her 
hands over her face. She felt as though this were 
her last parting from her lover, and the sun would 
never shine on, earth again. 

It was. now near midnight. The slaves had heard 



1 88 A THORNY PATH. 

the approach of the chariot, and received them as 
heartily as ever, but in obedience to Heron's orders 
they added the most respectful bows to their usual 
well-meant welcome. Since their master had shown 
himself to Dido, in the afternoon, with braggart dig- 
nity, as a ''Roman magnate, she had felt as though 
the age of miracles had come, and nothing was im- 
possible. Splendid visions of future grandeur await- 
ing the whole family, including herself and Argutis, 
had not ceased to haunt her ; but as to the empress, 
something seemed to have gone wrong, for why had 
the girl wet eyes and so sad a face ? What was all 
this long whispering with Argutis ? But it was no 
concern of hers, after all, and she would know all 
in good time, no doubt. " What the masters plot 
to-day the slaves hear next week," was a favorite 
saying of the Gauls, and she had often proved its 
truth. 

But the cool way in which Melissa received the 
felicitations which the old woman poured out in 
honor of the future empress, and her tear-reddened 
eyes, seemed at any rate quite comprehensible. 
The child was thinking, no doubt, of her handsome 
Diodoros. Among the splendors of the palace she 
would soon forget. And how truly magnificent were 
the dress and jewels in which the damsel had ap- 
peared in the amphitheatre ! 

" How they must have hailed her ! " thought the 
old womsxi when she had helped Melissa to exchange 
her dress for a simpler robe, and the girl sat down 
to write. " If only the mistress had lived to see this 
day ! And all the other women must have been burst- 
ing with envy. * Eternal gods ! But, after all, who 
knows whether the good luck we envy others is great 
or small ? Why, even in this house, which the gods 
have filled to the roof with gifts and favors, misfor- 



A THORNY PATH. 189 

tune has crept in through the key-hole. Poor Philip ! 

Still, if all goes well with the girl — Things have 

befallen her such as rarely come to any one, 

and yet no more than her due. The fairest and 

best will be the greatest and wealthiest in the em- 

• I» 
pire. 

And she clutched the amulets and the cross 
which hung round her arm and throat, and muttered 
a hasty prayer for her darling. 

Argutis, for his part, did not know what to think 
of it all. He, if any one, rejoiced in the good for- 
tune of his master and Melissa ; but Heron's pro- 
motion to the rank of praetor had been too sudden, 
and Heron demeaned himself too strangely in his 
purple-bordered toga. It was to be hoped that this 
new and unexpected honor had not turned his brain ! 
And the state in which his master's eldest son re- 
mained caused him the greatest anxiety. Instead 
of rejoicing in the honors.of his family, he had at his 
first interview with his father flown into a violent 
rage ; and though he, Argutis, had not understood 
what they were saying, he perceived that they were 
in vehement altercation, and that Heron had turned 
away in great wrath. And then — he remembered 
it with horror, and could hardly tell what he had 
seen to Alexander and Melissa in a reasonable and 
respectful manner — Philip had sprung out of bed, 
had dressed himself without help, even to his shoes, 
and scarcely had his father set out in his litter before 
Philip had come into the kitchen. He looked like 
one risen from the grave, and his voice was hollow 
as he told the slaves that he meant to go to the Cir- 
cus to see for himself that justice was done. But Ar- 
gutis felt his heart sink within him when the philoso- 
pher desired him to fetch the pipe his father used 
to teach the birds to whistle, and at the same time 



190 



A THORNY PATH. 



took up the sharp kitchen knife with which Arguti» 
slaughtered the sheep. 

The young man then turned to go, but even on 
the threshold he had stumbled over the straps of 
his sandals which dragged unfastened, and Argutis 
had had to lead him, almost to carry him in from 
the garden, for a violent fit of coughing had left 
him quite exhausted. The effort of pulling at the 
heavy oars on board the galley had been too much 
for his weak chest. Argutis and Dido had carried 
him to bed, and he had soon fallen into a deep sleep, 
from which he had not waked since. 

And how what were these two plotting ? They 
were writing ; and not on wax tablets, but with reed 
pens on papyrus, as though it were a matter of im- 
portance. 

All this gave the slave much to think about, and 
the faithful soul did not know whether to weep for 
joy or grief when Alexander told him, with a grav- 
ity which frightened him in this light-hearted youth, 
that, partly as the reward of his faithful service and 
partly to put him in a position to aid them all in a 
crisis of peculiar difficulty, he gave him his freedom. 
His father had long since intended to do this, and 
the deed was already drawn out. Here was the 
document ; and he knew that, even as a f reedman, 
Argutis would continue to serve them as faithfully 
as ever. With this he gave the slave his manu- 
mission, which he was in any case to have received 
within a month, at the end of thirty years' service, 
and Argutis took it with tears of joy, not unmixed 
with grief and anxiety, while only a few hours since 
it would have been enough to make him the hap- 
piest of mortals. 

While he kissed their hands and stammered out 
words of gratitude, his uncultured but upright spirit 



A THORNY PATH. 



191 



told him that he had been blind ever to have re- 
joiced for a moment at the news that Melissa had 
been chosen to be empress. All that he had seen 
during the last half-hour had convinced him, as 
surely as if he had been told it in words, that his 
beloved young mistress scorned her imperial suitor, 
and firmly intended to evade him — how, Argutis 
could not guess. And, recognizing this, a spirit of 
adventure and daring stirred him also. This was a 
struggle of the weak against the strong; and to 
him, who had spent his life as one of the oppressed, 
nothing could be more tempting than to help on the 
side of the weak. 

Argutis now undertook with ardent zeal to get 
Diodoros and his parents safely on board the ship 
he was to engage, and to explain to Heron, as soon 
as he should have read the letter which Alexander 
was now writing, that, unless he could escape at 
once with Philip, he was lost. Finally, he prom- 
ised that the epistle to Caesar, which Melissa was 
composing, should reach his hands on the morrow. 

He could now receive his letter of freedom with 
gladness,, and consented to dress up in Heron's 
garments ; for, as a slave, he would have been for- 
bidden to conclude a bargain with a ship's captain 
or any one else. 

All this was done in hot haste, for Caesar wasi 
awaiting Alexander, and Euryale expected Melissa. 
The ready zeal of the old man, free for the first time 
to act on his own responsibility in matters which 
would have been too much for many a free-born 
man, but to which he felt quite equal, had an en- 
couraging effect even on the oppressed hearts of the 
other two. They knew now that, even if death should 
be their lot, Argutis would be faithful to their father 
and sick brother, and the slave at once showed his 



192 



A THORNY PATH. 



ingenuity and . shrewdness ; for, while the young 
people were vainly trying to think of a hiding-place 
for Heron and Philip, he suggested a spot which 
would hardly be discovered even by the sharpest 
spies. 

Glaukias, the sculptor, who had already fled, was 
Heron's tenant. His work-room, a barn-like struct- 
ure, stood in the little vegetable-garden which the 
gem-cutter had inherited from his father-in-law, and 
none but Heron and the slave knew that, under the 
flooring, instead of a cellar, there was a vast reser- 
voir connected with the ancient aqueducts con- 
structed by Vespasian. Many years since Argutis 
had helped his master to construct a trap-door to 
the entrance to these underground passages, of 
which the existence had remained unknown even to 
Glaukias during all the years he had inhabited the 
place. It was here that Heron kept his gold, not tak- 
ing his children even into his confidence ; and only 
a few months ago Argutis had been down with him 
and had found the old reservoir dry, airy, and quite 
habitable. The gem-cutter would be quite content 
to concea] himself where his treasure was, and the 
garden and work-room were only distant a few hun- 
dred paces from his own home. To get Philip there 
without being seen was to Argutis a mere trifle. 
Alexander, too, old Dido, and, if needful, Diodoros, 
could all be concealed there. But for Melissa, 
neither he nor Alexander thought it sufficiently se- 
cure. 

As she took leave of him the young girl once 
more charged the newly freed man to greet her 
father from her a thousand times, to beseech his 
forgiveness of her for the bitter grief she must cause 
him, and to assure him of her affection. 

" Tell him," she added, as the tears streamed 



A THORNY PATH. 



193 



down her cheeks, " that I feel as if I were "going to 
my death. But, come what may, I am always his 
dutiful child, always ready to sacrifice anything — 
excepting only the man to whom, with my father's 
consent, I pledged my heart. Tell him that for love 
of him I might have been ready even to give my 
hand to the blood-stained Caesar, but that Fate — 
and perhaps the manes of her we loved, and who is 
dead — have ordered it otherwise." 

She then went into the room where her mother 
had closed her eyes. After a short prayer by that 
bed, which still stood there, she hastened to Philip's 
room. He lay sleeping heavily; she bent over 
him and kissed the too high brow, which looked as 
though even in sleep the brain within were still busy 
over some difficult and painful question. 

Her way led her once more through her father's 
work-room, and she had already crossed it when she 
hastily turned back to look once more — for the last 
time — at the little table where she had sat for so 
many years, busy with her needle, in modest con- 
tentment by the artist's side, dreaming with waking 
eyes, and considering what slie, with her small re- 
sources and great love, could do that would be of use 
to those she loved, or relieve them if they were in 
trouble. Then, as though she knew that she was bid- 
ding a last farewell to all the pleasant companionship 
of her youth, she looked at the birds, long since gone 
to roost in their cages. In spite of his recent curule 
honors Heron had not forgotten them, and, before 
quitting the house to display himself to the popu- 
lace in the foga pretexa^ he had as usual carefully 
covered them up. And now, as Melissa lifted the 
cloth from the starling's cage, and the bird mut- 
tered more gently than usual, and perhaps in its 
.sleep, the cry, " Olympias ! " a shudder ran through 

37 



J94 A THORNY PATH. 

her; and, as she stepped out into the road by Alex- 
ander's side, she said, dejectedly : 

" Everything is coming to an end ! Well, and so 
it may ; for what has come over us all in these few 
days ? Before Caesar came, what were you — what 
was Philip ? In my own heart what peace reigned ! 
And my father ? There is one comfort, at any rate ; 
even as praetor he has not forgotten his birds, and 
h^ will find feathered friends go where he may. 
But I — And it is for my sake that he must hide 
like a criminal ! " 

But here Alexander vehemently broke in : " It 
was not you, it was I who brought all this misery 
on us ! " And he went on to accuse himself so bit- 
terly that Melissa regretted having alluded to the 
misfortunes of their family, and did her best to in- 
spire him with courage. 

As soon as Caesar should have left the city and 
she had evaded his pursuit, the citizens would be 
easily persuaded of his innocence. They would see 
then how little she had cared for the splendor and 
wealth of empire ; why, he himself knew how quick- 
ly everything was forgotten in Alexandria. His 
art, too, would be a comfort to him, and if he only 
had the chance of making his way in his career he 
would have no difficulty in winning Agatha. He 
would have her on his side, and Diodoros, and the 
lady Ruryale. 

But to all these kind speeches the young man only 
sadly shook his head. How could he, despised and 
contemned, dare to aspire to the daughter of such 
a man as Zeno ? He ended with a deep sigh ; and 
Melissa, whose heart grew heavier as they ap- 
proached the Serapeum through the side streets, 
still forced herself to express her confidence as 
though the lady Euryale's protection had relieved 



A THORNY PATH. 



19^ 



her of every anxiety. It was so difficult to appear 
calm and cheerful that more than once she had 
to wipe her eyes ; still, their eager talk shortened 
the way, and she stood still, surprised to find her- 
self so near her destination, when Alexander showed 
her the chain which was stretched across the end of 
the street of Hermes to close in the great square in 
front of the Serapeum. 

The storm had passed away and the rain had 
ceased; the sky Was clear and cloudless, and the 
moon poured its silvery light in lavish splendor, as 
though revived, on the temple and on the statues 
round the square. Here they must part, for they 
saw that it was impossible that th^y should cross 
the open space together. 

It was almost deserted, for the populace were 
not allowed to go there. Of the hundreds of tents 
which till lately had covered it, only those of the 
seventh cohort of the praetorian guard remained; 
for these, having to protect the person of the 
emperor, had not been quartered in the town. If 
Alexander and Melissa had crossed this vast square, 
where it was now as light as day, they would cer- 
tainly have been seen, and Melissa would have 
brought not herself only but her protectress also 
into the greatest danger. 

She still had so much on her mind that she 
wanted to say to her brother, especially with regard 
to her father's welfare; and then — what a leave- 
taking was this when, as her gloomy forebodings 
told her, they were parting never to meet again ! 
But Euryale must have been long and anxiously 
waiting for her, and Alexander, too, was very late 
for his appoinment. 

It was impossible to let the girl cross the square 
alone, for it was guarded by soldiers. If she could 



196 



A THORNY PATH. 



but reach the side of the sanctuary where she was 
expected, and where the road was in the shadow of 
the riding-school opposite, all would be well, and it 
seemed as though there was no alternative but for 
Alexander to lead his sister through by-ways to her 
destination. They had just made up their minds to 
this inevitable waste of time, when a young woman 
was seen coming toward them from one of the tents 
with a swift, light step, winged with gladness. Alex 
ander suddenly released his sister's hand, and say- 
ing— 

" She will escort you," he advanced to meet her. 

This was the wife of Martialis, who had charge 
of the villa at Kanopus, and whose acquaintance the 
artist had made when he was studying the Galatea 
in the merchant's country-house for the portrait of 
Korinna. Alexander had made friends with the 
soldier's wife in his winning, lively way, and she 
was delighted to meet him again, and quite willing 
to escort his sister across the» square, and hold her 
tongue about it. So, after a short grasp of the 
hand, and a fervent last appeal to her brother, 
" Never for a moment let us forget one another, and 
always remember our mother ! " Melissa followed 
her companion. 

This evening the woman had sought her hus- 
band to tell him that she and her mother had got 
safely out of the Circus, and to thank him for the 
entertainment, of which the splendor, in spite of 
the various disturbances and interruption, had filled 
their hearts and minds. 

The first words she spoke to the girl led to the 
question as to whether she, too, had been at the 
Circus; and when Melissa said yes, but that she had 
been too frightened and horrified to see much, the 
chattering little woman began to describe it all. 



A THORNY PATH. 197 

Quite the best view, she declared, had been ob- 
tained from the third tier of places. Caesar's bride, 
too, had been pointed out to her. Poor thing ! She 
would pay dearly for the splendor of the purple. No 
one could dispute Caracalla's taste, however, for the 
girl was lovely beyond description ; and as she spoke 
she paused to look at Melissa, for she fancied she re- 
sembled Caesar's sweetheart. But she went on again 
quicker than before, remarking that Melissa was not 
so tall, and that the other was more brilliant look- 
ing, as beseemed an emperor's bride. 

At this Melissa drew her kerchief more closely 
over her face ; but it was a comfort to her when 
the soldier's wife, after describing to her what she 
herself had worn, added that Caracalla's choice had 
fallen on a modest and well-conducted maiden, for, 
if she had not been, the high-priest's wife would 
never have been so kind to her. And the lady Eu- 
ryale was sister-in-law to the master she herself 
served, and she had known her all her life. 

Then, when Melissa, to change the subject, 
asked why the public were forbidden to approach 
the Serapeum, her companion told her that since his 
return from the Circus Caesar had been devoting 
himself to astrology, soothsaying, and other ab- 
struse matters, and that the noise of the city dis- 
turbed him. He was very learned in such things, 
and if she only had time she could have told 
Melissa wonderful things. Thus conversing, they 
crossed the square, and when it lay behind them 
and they were under the shadow of the stadium, 
Melissa thanked her lively companion for her es- 
cort, while she, on her part, declared that it had 
been a pleasure to do the friendly painter a service. 

The western side of the immense temple stood 
quite detached from the town. There were on that 



1^8 A THORNY PATH. 

side but few bronze doors, and these, which were 
opened only to the inhabitants of the building, had 
long since been locked for the night and needed no 
guard. As the inhabitants were forbidden to cross 
the space dividing the stadium from the Serapeum, 
all was perfectly still. Dark shadows lay on the 
road, and the high structures which shut it in like 
cliffs seemed to tower to the sky. The lonely girl's 
heart beat fast with fears as she stole along, close 
under the wall, from which a warm vapor breathed 
on her after the recent rain. The black circles 
which seemed to stare at her like dark, hollow eye- 
sockets from the wall of the stadium, were the win- 
dows of the stables. 

If a runaway slave, an escaped wild beast, or a 
robber were to rush out upon her! The owls swept 
across over her head on silent wings, and bats flit- 
ted to and fro, from one building to the other, 
almost touching the frightened girl. Her terrors 
increased at every step, and the wall which she 
must follow to the end was so long — so endlessly 
long! 

Supposing, too, that the lady Euryale had been 
tired of waiting and had given her up ! There would 
then be nothing for it but to make her way back to 
the town past the guards, or to enter the temple 
through the great gates — where that dreadful man 
was — and where she would at once be recognized ! 
Then there could be no escape, none — and she must, 
yes, she must evade her dreadful suitor. Every 
thought of Diodoros cried, **You must!" — even at 
the cost of her young life, of which, indeed, she saw 
the imminent end nearer and nearer with every step. 
She knew not whither her flight might take her, but 
a voice within declared that it would be to an early 
grave. 



A THORNY PATH. 



199 



Only a narrow strip of sky was visible between 
the tall buildings, but, as she looked up to the heav- 
ens, she p.erceived that it was two hours past mid»- 
night. She hurried on, but presently checked her 
pace again. From the square, three trumpet-calls, 
one after another, rang through the silence of the 
night. What could these signals mean at so un- 
wonted an hour ? 

There could be but one explanation — Caesar had 
again condemned some hapless wretch to * death, 
and he was being led to executiorj. When Vindex 
and his nephew were beheaded, three trumpet-calls 
had sounded ; her brother had told her so. 

And now, before her inward eye, rose the crowd 
of victims to Caracalla's thirst for blood. She fan- 
cied that Plautilla, whom her imperial consort had 
murdered, was beckoning her to follow her to an 
early grave. The terrors of the night were too 
much for her ; and, as when a child, at play with her 
brothers, she flew on as fast as her feet would carry 
her. She fled as though she were pursued, her long 
dress hampering her steps, along by the temple wall, 
till her gaze, fixed on her left, fell on the spot which 
had been designated to her. 

Here she stopped, out of breath ; and, while she 
was identifying the landmarks which she had im- 
pressed on her memory to guide her to the right 
doorway, the temple wall seemed to open before 
her as if by a charm, and a kind voice called her 
name, and then exclaimed, " At last ! " and in a mo- 
ment she had grasped Euryale's hand and was 
drawn into the building. 

Here, as if at the touch of a magician's wand, 
all fear and horror vanished ; and, although she still 
panted for breath, she would at once have explained 
to her beloved protectress what it was that had 



2CX> A THORNY PATH; 

prompted her to run so fast, but that Euryale inter- 
rupted her, exclaiming : " Only make haste ! No 
one must see that block of porphyry turn on its 
pin* It is invisible from the outside, and closes the 
passage by which the mystics and adepts find their 
way to the mysteries after dedication. All who 
know of it are sworn to secrecy." 

With this she led the way into a dark vestibule 
adjoining the temple, and in a few moments the 
great block of stone which had admitted them had 
turned into its pl^ce again. Those who passed by, 
even in broad sunshine, could not distinguish it 
from all the other blocks of which the ground-floor 
of the edifice was built. 



/ 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

While the lady Euryaie preceded her young 
charge with a lamp up a narrow, dark staircase, 
Alexander waited in one of the audience-rooms till 
the emperor should call him. The high-priest of 
Serapis, several soothsayers of the temple, Aris- 
tides, the new head of the night-watch, and other 
"friends" of the monarch had accompanied him 
thus far. But admittance to the innermost apart- 
ments had not been permitted, for Caracalla had 
ordered the magician Serapion to call up spirits 
before him, and was having the future declared to 
him in the presence of the prefect of the praetorians 
and a few other trusty followers. 

The deputation of citizens, who had come to 
apologize to Caesar for the annoying occurrences 
in the Circus, had been told to wait till the ex- 
orcisms were over. Alexander would have pre- 
ferred to hold aloof from the others, but no one 
here seemed to think ill of him for his thoughtless 
behavior. On the contrary, the courtiers pressed 
round him — the brother of the future empress — with 
the greatest assiduity : the high-priest inquired after 
his brother Philip ; and Seleukus, the merchant, who 
had come with the deputation, addressed many flat- 
tering remarks to him on his sister's beauty. Some 
of the Roman senators whose advances he had re- 
ceived coldly enough at first, now took up his whole 



202 A THORNY PATH. 

attention, and described to him the works of art 
and the paintings in the new baths lof Caracalla ; 
they advised him to offer himself as a candidate 
for the ornamentation of some of the unfinished 
rooms with frescoes, and led him to expect their 
support. In short, they behaved toward the young 
man as if he might command their services, in spite 
of their gray hairs. But Alexander wsa through 
their purpose. 

Their discourse ceased suddenly, for voices were 
audible in the emperor's apartments, and they all 
listened with outstretched necks and bated breath 
if they might catch a word or two. 

Alexander only regretted not having either char- 
coal or tablets at hand, that he might fix their intent 
faces on the wood ; but at last he stood up, for the 
door was opened and the emperor entered from the 
tablinum, accompanied by the magician who had 
shown Caesar several spirits of the departed. In the 
middle of the demonstration, at Caracalla*s desire, 
the beheaded Papinian had appeared in answer to Se- 
rapion's call. Invisible hands replaced his severed 
head upon his shoulders, and, having greeted his 
sovereign, he promised him good fortune. Last of 
all great Alexander had appeared, and assured the 
emperor in verse, and with many a flowery phrase, 
that the soul of Roxana had chosen the form of 
Melissa to dwell in. Caracalla would enjoy the 
greatest happiness through her, as long as she was 
not alienated from him by love for another man. 
Should this happen, Roxana would be destroyed 
and her whole race with her, but Caesar's glory and 
greatness would reach its highest point. The mon- 
arch need have no misgivings in continuing to live 
out his (Alexander's) life. The spirit of his god- 
like father Severus watched over him, and had 



A THORNY PATH. 203 

given him a counselor in the person of Macrinus, in 
whose mortal body the soul of Scipio Africanus had 
awakened to a new life. 

With this, the apparition, which, like the others, 
had shown itself as a colored picture moving to and 
fro upon the darkened wall of the tablinum, van- 
ished. The voice of the great Macedonian sounded 
hollow and unearthly, but what he said had inter- 
ested the emperor deeply and raised his spirits. 

However, his wish to see more spirits had re- 
mained unsatisfied. The magician, who remained 
upon his knees with uplifted hands while the ap- 
paritions were visible, declared that the forces he 
was obliged to employ in exercising his magic 
power over the spirits had exhausted him. His 
fine, bearded face was deathly pale, and his tall form 
trembled and shook. His assistants had silently 
disappeared. They had kept themselves and their 
great scrolls concealed behind a curtain. Serapion 
explained that they were his pupils, whose office it 
was to support his incantations by efficient formulas. 

Caracalla dismissed him graciously, then turning 
to the assembled company, he gave with much affa- 
bility a detailed account of the wonders he had seen 
and heard. 

** A marvelous man, this Serapion,** he exclaimed 
to the high-priest Timotheus — " a master in his art. 
What he said before proceeding to the incantations 
is convincing, and explains much to me. According 
to him, magic holds the same relation to religion as 
power to love, as the command to the request. 
Power! What magic effect it has in real life? We 
have seen its influence upon the spirits, and who 
among the children of men can resist it ? To it I 
owe my greatest results, and hope to be still further 
indebted. Even reluctant love must bow to it." 



2o4 A THORNY PATH! 

He gave a self-satisfied laugh, and continued : 
" As the pious worshiper of the gods can move the 
heavenly ones by prayer and sacrifice, so — the won- 
drous man declared — the magician can force them 
by means of his secret lore to do his will. There- 
fore, he who knows and can call the gods and spirits 
by the right name, him they must obey, as the slave 
his master. The sages who served the Pharaohs in 
the gray dawn of time succeeded in fathoming the 
mystery of these names given to the everlasting 
ones at their birth, and their wisdom has come 
down to him through the generations as a priceless 
secret. But it is not sufficient to murmur the name 
to one's self, or be able to write it down. Every 
syllable has its special meaning like every member 
of the human frame. It depends, too, on how it is 
pronounced and where the emphasis lies; and this 
true name, containing in itself the spiritual essence 
of the immortals, and the outward sign of their 
presence, is different again from the names by which 
they are known among men. 

** Could I have any suspicion — and here Serapion 
addressed himself to me — which god he forced to 
obey him when he uttered the words, ^ Abar Barbaric 
Eloce Sabaoth Pa^hnuphis* and more like it ! I have 
only remembered the first few words. But, he con- 
tinued, it was not enough to be able to pronounce 
these words. The heavenly spirits would submit 
only to those mortals who shared in some of their 
highest characteristics. Before the Magian dared to 
call them, he must purify his soul from all sensual 
taint, and sanctify his body by long and severe 
fasting. When the Magian succeeded, as he had 
done in these days, in rendering himsel^f impervious 
to the allurements of the senses, and in making his 
soul, as far as was humanly possible, independent 



A THORNY PATH. 20$ 

of the body, only then had he attained to that de- 
gree of godliness which entitled him to have inter- 
course with the heavenly ones and the entire spirit- 
world as with his equals, and to subdue them to his 
will. 

" He exerted his power, and we saw with our 
bodily eyes that the spirits came to his call. But we 
discovered that it was not done by words alone. 
What a noble-looking man he is ! And the mortifica- 
tions that he practices — these, too, are heroic deeds ! 
The cavilers in the Museum might take example 
from him, Serapion performed an action and a diffi- 
cult one. They waste their time over words, mis- 
erable words ! They will prove to you by convinc- 
ing argument that yonder lion is a rabbit. The 
Magian waved his hands and the king of beasts 
cringed before him. Like the worthies of the Mu- 
seum, every one in this city is merely a mouth on 
two legs. Where but here would the Christians — I 
know their doctrines — have invented that term for 
their sublime teacher — The Word become flesh ? 
I have heard nothing here," he turned to the depu- 
tation, " but words and again words — from you, 
who humbly assure me of your love and reverence ; 
from those who think that their insignificant per- 
sons may slip through my fingers and escape me, 
paltry, would-be witty words, dipped in poison and 
gall. In the Circus, even, they aimed words at me. 
The Magian alone dared to offer me deeds, and he 
succeeded wonderfully ; he is a marvelous man ! " 

"What he showed you," said the high-priest, 
"was no more than what the sorcerers achieved, 
as the old writings tell us, under the builders of 
the Pyramids. Our astrologers, who traced out for 
you the path of the stars — " 

" They, too," interrupted Caesar, bowing slightly 



2o6 A THORNY PATH. 

to the astrologers, " have something better to show 
than words. As I owe to the Magian an agreeable 
hour, so I thank you, my friends, for a happy 
one." 

This remark had reference to the information 
which had been brought to Caesar, during a pause in 
the incantations, that the stars predicted great hap- 
piness for him in his union with Melissa, and that 
this prediction was well-founded, was proved by 
the constellations which the chief astrologer showed 
and explained to him. 

While Caracalla was receiving the thanks of the 
astrologers, he caught sight of Alexander, and at 
once graciously inquired how Melissa had got back 
to her father's house. He then asked, laughingly, 
if the wits of Alexandria were going to treat him to 
another offering like the one on his arrival. The 
youth, who had determined in the Circus to risk his 
life, if need be, in order to clear himself of the taint 
of suspicion, judged that the moment had come to 
make good the mistake which had robbed him of 
his fellow-citizens* esteem. 

The presence of so many witnesses strengthened 
his courage ; and fully expecting that, like the con- 
sul Vindex, his speech would cost him his head, he 
drew himself up and answered gravely, " It is true, 
great Caesar, that in a weak moment and without 
considering the results, I repeated some of those 
witticisms to you — " 

" I commanded,'and you had to obey,** retorted 
Caesar, and added, coldly, "But what does this 
mean ? *' 

" It means,** began Alexander — who already saw 
the sword of execution leap from its scabbard — with 
pathetic dignity, which astonished the emperor as 
coming from him, " it means that I herewith declare 



A THORNY PATH. 20/ 

before you, and my Alexandrian fellow-citizens here 
present, that I bitterly repent my indiscretion ; nay, 
I curse it, since I heard from your own lips how 
their ready wit has set you against the sons of my 
beloved native city." 

" Ah, indeed ! Hence these tears ? " interposed 
Caesar, adopting a well-known Latin phrase. He 
nodded to the painter, and continued, in a tone of 
amused superiority : " Go on performing as an ora- 
tor, if you like; only moderate the tragic tone, 
which does riot become you, and make it short, for 
before the sun rises we all — these worthy citizens 
and myself — ^^desire to be in bed." 

Blushes and pallor alternated on the young 
man*s face. Sentence of death would have been 
more welcome to him than this supercilious check 
to a hazardous attempt, which he had looked upon 
as daring and heroic. Among the Romans he caught 
sight of some laughing faces, and hurt, humiliated, 
confused, scarcely capable of speaking a word, and 
yet moved by the desire to justify himself, he stam- 
mered out : " I have — I meant to assure — No, 
I am no spy ! May my tongue wither before I — 
You can, of course — It is in your power to take 
my life ! " 

" Most certainly it is," interposed Caracalla, and 
his tone was more contemptuous than angry. He 
could see how deeply excited the artist was, and to 
save him — Melissa's brother — from committing a 
folly which he would be obliged to punish, he went 
on with gracious consideration : " But I much prefer 
to see you live and wield the brush for a long time 
to come. You are dismissed." 

The young man bent his head, and then turned 
his back upon the emperor, for he felt that he was 
threatened now with what, to an Alexandrian, was 



208 A THORNY PATH. 

the most unbearable fate — to appear ridiculous be- 
fore so many. 

Caracalla allowed him to go, but, as he stepped 
across the threshold, he called after him : " To- 
morrow, then, with your sister, after the bath! 
Tell her the stars and the spirits are propitious to 
our union." 

Caesar then beckoned to the chief of the night- 
watch, and, having laid the blame of theunpleasant 
occurrences in the Circus on his carelessness, cut 
the frightened officer short when he proposed to 
take every one prisoner whom the lictors had 
marked among the noisy. 

" Not yet ! On no account to-morrow," Caracalla 
ordered. "Mark each one carefully. Keep your 
eyes open at the next performance. Put down the 
names of the disaffected. Take care that the rope 
hangs about the neck of the guilty. The times to 
draw it tight will come presently. When they think 
themselves safe, the cowardly show their true faces. 
Wait till I give the signal — certainly not in the 
next few days ; then seize upon them, and let none 
escape ! " 

Caesar had given these orders with smiling lips. 
He wanted first to make Melissa his, and, like a 
shepherd, to revel with her in the sweetness of their 
love. No moment of this time should be darkened 
for him by the tears and prayers of his bride. When 
she should hear, later on, of her husband's bloody 
vengeance upon his enemies, she would have to 
accept it as an accomplished fact ; and means, no 
doubt, would be found to soothe her indignation. 

Those who after the insulting occurrences in the 
Circus had expected to see Caesar raging and storm- 
ing, were hurried from one surprise to another ; for 
even after his conversation with the night-watch he 



A THORNY PATH. 



209 



looked cheerful and contented, and exclaimed : " It 
is long since you have seen me thus ! My own mirror 
will ask itself if it has not changed owners. It is 
to be hoped it may have cause to accustom itself to 
reflect me as a happy man as often as I look in k. 
The two highest joys of life are before me, and I 
know not what would be left for me to desire if 
only Philostratus were here to share the coming 
days with me." 

The grave senator Cassius Dio here stepped for-" 
ward and observed that there were advantages in 
their amiable friend's withdrawal from the turmoil 
of court life. His Life of Apollonius, to which all 
the world was looking forward, would come all the 
sooner to a close. 

" If only that I might talk to him of the man of 
Tyana," cried the emperor, " I wish his biographer 
were here to-day. To possess little and require 
nothing is the wish of the sage; and I can well 
imagine circumstances in which one who has en- 
joyed power and riches to satiety should consider 
himself blessed as a simple countryman following 
out the precept of Horace, ^ procul negotiis^* plowing 
his fields and gathering the fruit of his own trees. 
According to Apollonius, the wise man must also be 
poor, and, though the citizens of his state are per- 
mitted \s> acquire treasures, the wealthy are looked 
upon as dishonorable. There is some sense in 
this paradox, for the possessions that are to be ob- 
tained with money are but vulgar joys. I know by 
experience what it is that purifies the soul, that lifts 
it up and makes it truly blessed. It does not come 
of power or riches. Whoso has known it, he to 
whom it has been revealed — " 

He stopped short, surprised at himself; then 
laughed as he shook his head and exclaimed, " Be- 

38 



2IO A THORNY PATH. 

hold, the tragedy hero in the purple with one foot 
in an idyl ! " and wished the assembled company 
pleasant slumbers for the short remains of the night. 

He gave his hand to a few favored ones; but, as 
he clasped that of the proconsul Julius Paulinus, 
who, with unheard-of audacity, had put on mourning 
garments for his brother-in-law Vindex, beheaded 
that day, Caesar's countenance grew dark, and, turn- 
ing his back upon them all, he walked rapidly away. 
Scarcely had he disappeared when the mourning 
proconsul exclaimed in his dry manner, as if speak- 
ing to himself : 

" The idyl is to begin. Would it might be the 
satyr-play that closes the bloodiest of tragedies ! " 

" Caesar has not been himself to-day," said the 
favorite Theocritus; and the senator Cassius Dio 
whispered to Paulinus, " And therefore he was more 
bearable to look at." 

Old Adventus gazed in astonishment as Arjuna, 
the emperor's Indian body-slave, disrobed him ; for, 
though Caracalla had entered the apartment with a 
dark and threatening brow, while his sandals were 
being unfastened, he laughed to himself, and cried to 
his old servant with beaming eyes, "To-morrow!" 
and the chamberlain called down a blessing on the 
morrow, and on her who was destined to fill the 
coming years with sunshine for mighty Caesar. 

Caracalla, generally an early riser, slept this time 
longer than on other days. He had retired very late 
to rest, and the chamberlain therefore put off wak- 
ing him, especially as he had been troubled by evil 
dreams, in spite of his happy frame of mind when 
he sought his couch. When at last he rose he first 
inquired about the weather, and expressed his satis- 
faction when he heard that the sun had risen with 



A THORNY PATH. 211 

burning rays, but was now veiled in threatening 
clouds. 

His first visit led him to the court of sacrifice. 
The offerings had fallen out most favorably, and he 
rejoiced at the fresh and healthy appearance of the 
bullocks* hearts and livers which the augurs showed 
him. In the stomach of one of the oxen they had 
found a flint arrow-head, and, on showing it to Cara- 
calla, he laughed, and observed to the high-priest 
Timotheus : " A shaft from Eros's quiver ! A hint 
from the god to offer him a sacrifice on this happy 
day." . 

After his bath he caused himself to be arrayed 
with peculiar care, and then gave orders for the 
admittance, first, of the prefect of the praetorians, 
and then of Melissa, for whom a mass of gorgeous 
flowers stood ready. 

But Macrinus was not to be found, although 
Caesar had commanded him yesterday to give in his 
report before doing anything else. He had twice 
come to the antechamber, but had gone away again 
shortly before, and had not yet returned. 

Determined to let nothing damp his spirits, 
Caesar merely shrugged his shoulders, and gave 
orders to admit the maiden, and — should they have 
accompanied her — her father and brother. But 
neither Melissa nor the men had appeared as yet, 
though Caracalla distinctly remembered having 
commanded all three to visit him after the bath, 
which he had taken several hours later than 
usual. 

Vexed, and yet endeavoring to keep his temper, 
he went to the window. The sky was overcast, and 
a sharp wind from the sea drove the first rain-drops 
in his face. 

In the wide square at his feet a spectacle prcr 



212 A THORNY PATH. 

sented itself which would have delighted him at 
another time, when in better spirits. 

The younger men of the city — as many as were 
of Greek extraction — were trooping in. They were 
divided into companies, according to the wrestling- 
schools or the Circus and other societies to which 
they belonged. The youths marched apart from 
the married men, and one could see that they came 
gladly, and hoped for much enjoyment from the 
events of the day. Some of the others looked less 
delighted. They were unaccustomed to obey the 
orders of a despot, and many were ill-pleased to 
lose a whole day from their work or business. But 
no one was permitted to absent himself ; for, when the 
chief citizens had invited the emperor to visit their 
wrestling-schools, he replied that he preferred to 
inspect the entire male youths of Alexandria in the 
Stadium. This was situated close by his residence 
in the Serapeum, and in this great space a spectacle 
would be afforded to him at one glance, which he 
could otherwise only enjoy by journeying labori- 
ously from one gymnasium to another. He loved 
the strong effects produced by great masses ; and 
being on the race-course, the wrestlers and boxers, 
the runners and discus-throwers, could give proof 
of their strength, dexterity, and endurance. 

It occurred to him at the moment that among 
these youths and men there might be some of the 
descendants of the warriors who, under the com- 
mand of the great Alexander, had conquered the 
world. Here, then, was an opportunity of gather- 
ing round him — rejuvenated and, so to speak, born 
anew — those troops who, under the guidance of the 
man whose mission on earth he was destined to ac- 
complish, had won such deathless victories. That 
was a pleasure he had every right to permit him- 



A THORNY PATH. 



213 



self, and he wished to show to Melissa the re-created 
military forces of him to whom, in a former exist» 
ence, as Roxana, she had been so dear. 

Quick as ever to suit the deed to the word, he 
at once ordered the head citizens to assemble the 
youth of Alexandria on the morning of the day in 
question, and to form them into a Macedonian pha- 
lanx. He wished to inspect them in the stadium, 
and they were now marching thither. 

He had ordered helmets, shields, and lances to 
be made after well-known Macedonian patterns and 
to be distributed to the new Hellenic legion. Later 
on they might be intrusted with the guarding of 
the city, should there be a Parthian war ; and he re- 
quired the attendance of the Alexandrian garrison. 

The inspection of this Greek regiment would 
be certain to give pleasure to Melissa. He ex- 
pected, too, to see Alexander among them. When 
once his beloved shared the purple with him, he 
could raise her brother to the command of this 
chosen phalanx. 

Troop after troop streamed on to the course, 
and he thought he had seldom seen anything finer 
than these slender youths, marching along with 
elastic step, and garlands in their black, brown, or 
golden locks. 

When the young noblemen who belonged to the 
school of Timagetes filed past him, he took such 
delight in the beauty of their heads, the wonderful 
symmetry of their limbs strengthened by athletic 
games, and the supple grace of most of them, that 
he felt as if some magic spell had carried him back 
to the golden age of Greece and the days of the 
Olympian games in the Altis. 

What could be keeping Melissa ? This sight 
would assuredly please her, and for once he would 



214 



A THORNY PATH. 



be able to say something flattering about her people. 
One might easily overlook a good deal from such 
splendid youths. 

Carried away by his admiration he waved his 
scarf to them, which being remarked by the gym- 
nasiarch, who with his two assistants — herculean 
athletes — walked in front, was answered by him 
with a loud " Hail, Caesar ! " 

The youths who followed him imitated his ex- 
ample, and the troop that came after them returned 
his greeting loud and heartily. The young voices 
could be heard from afar, and the news soon spread 
to the last ranks of the first division to whom these 
greetings were addressed. But, among the men 
who already were masters of households of their 
own, there were many who deemed it shameful and 
unworthy to raise their voices in greeting to the 
tyrant whose heavy hand had oppressed them more 
than once ; and a group of young men belonging 
to the party of the " Greens," who ran their own 
horses, had the fatal audacity to agree among them- 
selves that they would leave Caesar's greeting un- 
answered. A many-headed crowd is like a row of 
strings which sound together as soon as the note is 
struck to which they are all attuned ; and so each 
one now felt sure that his acclamation would only 
increase the insolence of this fratricide, this blood- 
stained monster, this oppressor and enemy of the 
citizens. The succeeding ranks of " Greens " fol- 
lowed the example, and from the midst of a troop 
of young married men, members in the gymnasium 
of the society of the Dioscuri, one foolhardy spirit 
had the reckless temerity to blow a shrill, far-sound- 
ing whistle between his fingers. 

He found no imitators, but the insulting sound 
reached the emperor's ear, and seemed to him like 



A THORNY PATH. 21 J 

the signal -call of Fate ; for, before it had died 
away, the clouds broke, and a stream of brilliant 
sunshine spread over the race-course and the assem- 
bled multitude. The cloudy day that was to have 
brought happiness to Caesar had been suddenly 
transformed by the sun of Africa into a bright one ; 
and the radiant light which cheered the hearts of 
others seemed to him to be a message from above 
to warn him that, instead of the highest bliss, this 
day would bring him disappointment and misfort- 
une. He said nothing of this, for there was no 
one there in whom it would be any relief to confide, 
or of whose sympathy he could be sure. But those 
who watched him as he retired from the window 
saw plainly that the idyl, which he had promised 
them should begin to-day, would assuredly not do 
so for the next few hours at least, unless some 
miracle should occur. No, he would have to wait 
awhile for the pastoral joys he had promised him- 
self. And it seemed as if, instead of the satyr-play 
of which old Julius Paulinus had spoken, that fatal 
whistle had given the signal for another act in 
Caracalla's terrible life-tragedy. 

The "friends" of the emperor looked at him 
anxiously as, with furrowed brow, he asked, impa- 
tiently : 

" Macrinus not here yet ?" 

Theocritus arid others who had looked with 
envy upon Melissa and her relatives, and with dis- 
trust upon her union with the emperor, now heartily 
wished the girl back again. 

But the prefect Macrinus came not ; and while 
the emperor, having sent messengers to fetch Me- 
lissa, turned with darkly boding brow to his station 
overlooking the brightly lighted race-course, still 
hoping the augury would prove false, and the sunny 



2i6 A THORNY PATH. 

day turn yet in his favor, Macrinus was in the full 
belief that the gate of greatness and power was open- 
ing to him. Superstitious as the emperor himself and 
every one else of his time, he was to-day more firmly 
persuaded than ever of the existence of men whose 
mysterious wisdom gave them powers to which even 
he must bend — the hard-headed man who had raised 
himself from the lowest to the highest station, next 
to the Caesar himself. 

In past nights the Magian Serapion had caused 
him to see and hear much that was incomprehensible. 
He believed in the powers exerted by that remark- 
able man over spirits, and his ability to work mira- 
cles, for he had proved in the most startling manner 
that he had perfect control even over such a deter- 
mined mind as that of the prefect. The evening 
before, the magician had bidden Macrinus come to 
him at the third hour after sunrise of the next day, 
which he had unhesitatingly promised to do. But 
the emperor had risen later than usual this morning, 
and the prefect might expect to be called to his 
master at any moment. In spite of this, and al- 
though his absence threatened to rouse Csesar to 
fury, and everything pointed to the necessity of his 
remaining within call, Macrinus, drawn by an irre- 
sistible craving, had followed the invitation, which 
sounded more like a command. This, indeed, had 
seemed to him decisive ; for, as the seer ruled over 
his stern spirit, albeit he was alive, even so must 
the spirits of the departed do his bidding. His 
every interest urged him now to believe in the 
prophecy made to him by Serapion, to-day for the 
third time, which foretold that he, the prefect, 
should mount the throne of the Caesars, clad in the 
purple of Caracalla. But it was not alone to repeat 
this prophecy that the seer had called Macrinus to 



A THORNY PATH. 



217 



him, but to inform him that the future empress was 
betrothed to a young Alexandrian, and that the 
tender intercourse between the lovers had not been 
interrupted during Caracalla's courtship. This had 
come to Serapion's ears yesterday afternoon, through 
his adroit assistant Kastor, and he had taken ad- 
vantage of the information to prepare Caesar dur- 
ing the night for the faithlessness of his chosen 
bride. 

The Magian assured the prefect that what the 
spirit of the great Macedonian had hinted at yester- 
day had since been confirmed by the demons in his 
service. It would now be easy for Macrinus to 
possibly hinder Melissa, who might have been all- 
powerful, from coming between him and the great 
goal which the spirits had set before him. 

Serapion then repeated the prophecy, which came 
with such convincing power from the bearded lips 
of the sagethat the prudent statesman cast his last 
doubts from him, and, exclaiming, " I believe your 
words, and shall press forward now in spite of every 
danger!" he grasped the prophet's hand in fare- 
well. 

Up to this point Macrinus, the son of a poor 
cobbler, who had had difficulty in rearing his chil- 
dren at all, had received these prophetic utter- 
ances with cool deliberation, and had ventured no 
step nearer to the exalted aim which had been 
offered to his ambition. In all good faith he had 
done his best to perform the duties of his office as 
an obedient servant to his master and the state. 
This had all changed now, and, firmly resolved to 
risk the struggle for the purple, he returned to the 
emperor's apartments. 

Macrinus had no reason to expect a favorable 
reception when he entered the tablinum, but his 



2i8 A THORNY PATH. 

great purpose upheld his courage. He, the upstart; 
was well aware that Fortune requires her favorites 
to keep their eyes open and their hands active. 
He therefore took care to obtain a full account 
of what had happened from his confidential friend 
the senator Antigonus, a soldier of mean birth, who 
had gained favor with Caesar by a daring piece of 
horsemanship. Antigonus closed his report with 
the impudent whistle of the Greek athlete ; he dwelt 
chiefly on his astonishment at Melissa's absence. 
This gave food for thought to the prefect, too ; but 
before entering the tablinum he was stopped by the 
freedman Epagathos, who handed over to him a 
scroll which had been given to him for the emperor. 
The messenger had disappeared directly afterward, 
and could not be overtaken. Might it not endanger 
the life of the reader by exhaling a poisonous per- 
fume ? 

"Nothing is impossible here," answered the 
prefect. " Ours it is to watch over the safety of our 
godlike master." 

This letter was that which Melissa had intrusted 
to the slave Argutis for Caesar, and with unwarrant- 
able boldness the prefect and Epagathos now opened 
it and ran rapidly over its contents. They then 
agreed to keep this strange missive from the em- 
peror till Macrinus should send to ask whether the 
youths were assembled in their full number on the 
race-course. They judged it necessary to prepare 
Caesar in some sort, to prevent a fresh attack of 
illness. 

Caracalla was standing near a pillar at the win- 
dow whence he might see without being seen. That 
whistle still shrilled in his ears. But another idea 
occupied him so intensely that he had not yet 
thought of wiping out the insult with blood. 



A THORNY PATH. 



219 



What could be delaying Melissa and her father 
and brother ? 

The painter ought to have joiiled the other 
Macedonian youths on the race-course, and Cara- 
calla was engaged in looking out for him, stretch- 
ing forward every time he caught sight of some 
curly head that rose above the others. 

There was a bitter taste in his mouth, and at 
every fresh disappointment his rebellious, tortured 
heart beat faster ; and yet the idea that Melissa 
might have dared to flee from him never entered 
his mind. 

The high-priest of Serapis had informed him that 
his wife had seen nothing of her as yet. Then it 
suddenly occurred to him that she might have been 
wet through by the rain yesterday and now lay 
shaken by fever, and that this ö^ust keep her father 
away, too ; a supposition which cheeced the egoist 
more than it pained him, and with a sigh of relief 
he turned once more to the window. 

How haughtily these boys carried their heads; 
their fleet, elastic feet skimmed over the ground; 
how daringly they showed off the strength and dex- 
terity that almost seemed their birthright ! This 
reminded him that, prematurely aged as he was by 
the wild excesses of his younger years, with his ill- 
set broken leg and his thin locks, he must make a 
lamentable contrast to these others of his own age ; 
and he said to himself that perhaps the whistle had 
come from the lips of one of the strongest and 
handsomest, who had not considered him worth 
greeting. 

And yet he was not weaker than any single in- 
dividual down there ; aye, and if he chose he could 
crush them all together, as he would the glow-worm 
creeping on that window-sill. With one quick 



220 A THORNY PATH. 

squeeze of his fingers he put an end to the pretty 
little insect, and at that moment he heard voices 
behind him. ' 

Had his beloved come at last ? 

No, it was only the prefect. He should have 
been there long ago, if he were obedient to his sov- 
ereign's commands. Macrinus was therefore a con- 
venient object on which to vent his anger. How 
mean was the face of this long-legged upstart, with 
its small eyes, sharp nose, and furrowed brow! 
Could the beautiful Diadumenianus really be his 
Son ? No matter ! The boy, the apple of his fa- 
ther's eye, was in his power, and was a surety for 
the old man's loyalty. After all, Macrinus was a 
capable, serviceable officer, and easier to deal with 
than the Romans of the old noble families. 

Notwithstanding these considerations, Caracalla 
addressed the prefect as harshly as if he had been a 
disobedient slave, but Macrinus received the flood 
of abuse with patience and humility. When the 
emperor reproached him with never being at hand 
when he was wanted, he replied submissively that it 
was just because, he found he could be of service to 
Caesar that he had dared to absent himself. The 
refractory young brood down there were being kept 
well in hand, and it was entirely owing to his ef- 
fectual measures that they had contented themselves 
with that one whistle. Later on it would be their 
duty to punish such audacity and high-treason with 
the utmost rigor. 

The emperor gazed in astonishment at the coun- 
selor, who till now had ever advised him to use 
moderation, and only yesterday had begged him to 
ascribe much to Alexandrian manners, which in 
Rome would have had to be treated with severity. 
Had the insolence of these unruly citizens be- 



A THORNY PATH. 221 

come unbearable even to this prudent, merciful 
man? 

Yes, that must be it ; and the grudge that Ma- 
crinus now showed against the Alexandrians hast- 
ened the pardon which Caesar silently accorded him. 

Caracalla even said to himself that he had under- 
rated the prefect's intellect, for his eyes flashed and 
glowed like fire, notwithstanding their smallness, 
and lending a force to his ignoble face which Cara- 
calla had never noticed before. Had Caesar no pre- 
monition that in the last few hours this man had 
grown to be such another as himself? — for in his 
unyielding mind the firm resolve had been strength- 
ened to hesitate at nothing — not even at the death 
of as many as might come between him and his high 
aim, the throne. 

Macrinus knew enough of human nature to ob- 
serve the miserable disquietude that had seized 
upon the emperor at his bride's continued absence, 
but he took good care not to refer to the subject. 
When Caracalla, however, could no longer conceal 
his anxiety, and asked -after her himself, the pre- 
fect gave the appointed sign to Epagathos, who 
then handed Melissa's freshly re-sealed letter to 
his master. 

" Let me open it, great Caesar," entreated Ma- 
crinus. " Even Homer called Egypt the land of 
poison." 

But the emperor did not heed him. No one had 
told him, and he had never in his life received a 
letter in a woman's hand, except from his mother ; 
and yet he knew that this delicate little roll had 
come from a woman — from Melissa. 

It was closed with a silken thread, and the seal 
with which Epagathos had replaced the one they 
had broken. If Caracalla tore it open, the papyrus 



222 A THORNY PATH. 

and the writing might be damaged. He called im- 
patiently for a knife, and the body physician, who 
had just entered with other courtiers, handed him 
his. 

" Back again ? " asked Caracalla as the physician 
drew the blade from its sheath. 

" At break of day, on somewhat unsteady legs," 
was the jovial answer. Caracalla took the knife 
from him, cut the silk, hastily broke the seal, and 
began to read. 

Till now his hands had performed their office 
steadily, but suddenly they began to tremble, and 
while he ran his eye over Melissa's refusal — there 
were but a few lines — his knees shook, and a sharp, 
low cry burst from him, like no sound that lies by 
nature in the throat of man. Rent in two pieces, 
the strip of papyrus fluttered to the ground. 

The prefect caught the despot, who, seized with 
giddiness, stretched out his hands as if seeking a 
support. The physician hurriedly brought out the 
drug which Galenus had advised him to use in such 
cases, and which he always carried with him, and 
then, pointing to the letter, asked the prefect : 

" In the name of all the gods, from whom ? " 

" From the gem-cutter's fair daughter," replied 
Macrinus, with a contemptuous shrug. 

" From her ? " cried the physician, indignantly. 
" From that light Phrync, who kissed and embraced 
my rich host's son down there in his sick-room ? " 

At this the emperor, who had not lost conscious- 
ness for one moment, started as if stung by a ser- 
pent, and sprang at the physician's throat screaming 
while he threatened to strangle him : 

" What was that ? What did you say ? Cursed 
babbler ! The truth, villain, and the whole truth, if 
you love your life ! " 



A THORNY PATH. 



223 



The half-choked man, ever prone to talking, 
had no reason for concealing from Caesar what he 
had seen with his own eyes, and had subsequently 
heard in the Serapeum and at the table of Polybius. 

When life was at stake a promise to a freed- 
man could be of no account, so he gave free rein 
to his tongue, and answered the questions Caracalla 
hoarsely put to him without reserve, and — being a 
man used to the ways of a court — with insinuations 
that were doubly welcome to a judge so eager for 
damning evidence. 

Yesterday, the day before, and the day before 
that — every day on which Melissa had pretended 
to feel the mysterious ties that bound her heart to 
his, every day that she had feigned love and led 
him on to woo her, she had — as he now learned — 
granted to another what she had refused to him 
with such stern discretion. Her prayer for him, the 
sympathy she said she felt, the maidenly sensibility 
which had charmed him in her — all, all had been 
lies, deceit, sham, in order to attain an object. 
And that old man and the brothers to serve whom 
she had dared to approach him — they all knew the 
cruel game she was playing with him and his heart's 
love. The lips that had lured him into the vilest 
trap with lying words had kissed another. He 
seemed to hear the Alexandrians laughing at the 
forsaken bridegroom, to see them pointing the 
finger of derision at the man whom cunning woman 
had deceived even before marriage. What a feast 
for their ribald wit ! 

And yet — he would have willingly borne it all, 
and more, for the certainty that she had really loved 
him once ; that her heart had been his, if only fot 
one short hour. 

On those shreds of papyrus scattered over the 



224 A THORNY PATH. 

floor she confessed she was not able to accede to 
his wishes, because she had already given her faith 
to another before she ever saw Caracalla. It was 
true she had felt herself drawn to him as to no 
other but her betrothed ; and had he been content 
to let her be near him as a faithful servant and sick- 
nurse, then indeed ... In short, he was informed 
in so many words that every tie that bound her 
to him must be broken in favor of another, and 
the hypocritical regret with which she sought to 
cover up the hard facts only made him doubly 
indignant. 

Lies, lies — even in this letter nothing but lies and 
heartless dissimulation ! 

How it stabbed his heart ! But he possessed the 
power to wound her in return. Wild beasts should 
tear her fair body limb from limb, as she had torn 
his soul in this hour. 

One wish alone filled his heart — to see her whom 
he had loved above all others, to whom he had re- 
vealed his inmost soul, for whose sake he had 
amended his actions as he had never done for his 
own mother — to see her lying in the dust before 
him, and to inflict upon her such tortures as no mor- 
tal had ever endured before. And not only she, but 
all whom she loved and who were her accomplices, 
should atone for the torment of this hour. The time 
of reckoning had come, and every evil instinct of 
his nature mingled its exulting voice with the an- 
guished cries of his bleeding heart. 

The prefect knew his master well, and watched 
his every expression while apparently listening to 
the voluble physician, but in reality absorbed in a 
train of thought. By the twitching of his eyelids, 
the sharply outlined red patches on his cheeks, the 
quivering nostrils, and the deep furrows between his 



A THORNY PATH. 



225 



eyes, he must be revolving some frightful plan in 
his mind. 

Yesterday, had he found him in this condition, 
Macrinus would have endeavored by every means 
in his power to calm his wrath ; but to-day, if Caesar 
had set the world in flames, he would only have 
added fuel to the fire, for who could more surely 
upset the firmly established power of this emperor 
and son of emperors as Caracalla himself? The 
people of Rome had endured unimaginable suffer- 
ings at his hands; but the cup was full, and, judg- 
ing from Caesar's looks, he would cause it to over- 
flow this day. Then the rising flood which tore the 
son of an idolized father from the throne, might 
possibly bear him, the child of lowliness and pov- 
erty, into the palace. 

But Macrinus remained silent. No word from 
him should change the tenor of the emperor's 
thoughts. The plan he was thinking out must be 
allowed to ripen to its full horror. The lowering, 
uncertain glance that Caracalla cast round the 
tablinum at the close of the physician's narrative 
showed that the prefect's reticence was an unneces- 
sary precaution. , 

Csaear's mind and tongue still seemed paralyzed; 
but at that moment something occurred which re- 
called him to himself and brought firmness to his 
wandering gaze. 

There was a sudden disturbance in the ante- 
chamber, with a confused sound of cries and shout- 
ing. Those friends of Caesar who wore swords 
drew them,- and Caracalla, who was unarmed, called 
to Antigonus to give him his. 

** A revolt?" he asked Macrinus with flashing 
eyes, and as if he wished the answer to be in the 
affirmative; but the prefect had hastened to the 

39 



226 A THORNY PATH. 

door with drawn sword. Before he reached it, it 
was thrown open, and Julius Asper, the legate, 
burst into the tablinum as if beside himself, crying : 
" Cursed den of murderers ! An attempt on your 
.life, great Caesar ; but we have him fast ! " 

" Assassination ! " interrupted Caracalla with fu- 
rious joy. " That was the only thing left undone ! 
Bring the murderer ! But first " — and he addressed 
himself to Aristides — " close the city gates and the 
harbor. Not a man, not a ship must be let through 
without being searched. The vessels that have 
weighed anchor since daybreak must be followed 
and brought back. Mounted Numidians under effi- 
cient officers must scour the high-roads as soon as 
the gate-keepers have been examined. Every house 
must be open to your men, every temple, every 
refuge. Seize Heron, the gem-cutter, his daughter, 
and his two sons. Also — Diodoros is the young 
villain's name? — him, his parents, and everybody 
connected with them ! The physician knows where 
they are to be found. Alive^ do you hear? — not 
dead ! I will have them alive ! I give you till mid- 
night! Your head, if you let the jade and her 
brothers escape ! " > 

With drooping head the unhappy officer de- 
parted. On the threshold he was met by Mar- 
tialis, the praetorian centurion. After him, his hands 
bound behind his back, walked the criminal. A deep 
flush overspread his handsome face, his eyes glowed 
under the too lofty brow with the fierce light of fe- 
ver, his waving locks stood out in wild confusion 
round his head, while the finely cut upper lip with 
its disdainful curl seemed the very seat of scorn and 
bitterest contempt. Every feature wore that same 
expression, and not a trace of fear or regret. But 
his panting breast betrayed to the physician's first 



A THORNY PATH. 



227 



glance that they had here to deal with a sick man in 
raging fever. 

They had already torn off his mantle and dis- 
covered beneath its folds the sharp-edged butcher's 
knife which plainly betrayed his intentions. He had 
penetrated to the first antechamber when a soldier 
of the Germanic body-guard laid hold on him. Mar- 
tialis had him by the girdle now, and the emperor 
looked sharply and mistrustfully at the praetorian, 
as he asked if it were he who had captured the 
assassin. 

The centurion replied that he had not. Ingio- 
marus, the German, had noticed the knife; he, 
Martialis, was here only in right of his privilege as 
a praetorian to bring such prisoners before great 
Caesar. 

Caracalla bent a searching gaze upon the sol- 
dier ; for he thought he recognized in him the man 
who had aroused his envy and whose happiness he 
had once greatly desired to damp, when against 
orders he had received his wife and child in the 
camp. Recollections rose in his mind that drove 
the hot blood to his cheek, and he cried, disdain- 
fully : 

" I might have guessed it ! AVhat can be ex- 
pected beyond the letter of their service from one 
who so neglects his duties ? Did you not disport 
yourself with lewd women in the camp before my 
very eyes, setting at naught the well-known rules ? 
Hands off the prisoner ! This is your last day 
as praetorian and in Alexandria. As' soon as the 
harbor is opened — to-morrow, I expect — you go 
on board the ship that carries reinforcements to 
Edessa. A winter on the Pontus will cool your 
lascivious blood." 

This attack was so rapid and so unexpected to 



228 A THORNY PATH. 

the somewhat dull-witted centurion, that he failed 
at first to grasp its full significance. He only un- 
derstood that he was to be banished again from the 
loved ones he had so long been deprived of. But 
when he recovered sufficiently to excuse himself by 
declaring that it was his own wife and children who 
had visited him, Caesar cut him short by command- 
ing him to report his change of service at once to 
the tribune of the legion. 

The centurion bowed in silence and obeyed. 
Caracalla then went up to the prisoner, and drag- 
ging him, weakly resisting, from the dark back- 
ground ot the room to the window, he asked with a 
sneer : 

" And what are assassins like in Alexandria ? 
Ah, ha ! this is not the face of a hired cut-throat ! 
Only thus do they look whose sharp wit I will 
answer with still sharper steel." 

** For that answer at least you are not wont to 
be at a loss," came contemptuously from the lips of 
the prisoner. 

The emperor winced as if he had been struck, 
and then exclaimed : 

" You may thank your bound hands that I do 
not instantly return you the answer you seem to ex- 
pect of me." 

Then turning to his courtiers, he asked if any 
of them could give him information as to the name 
and history of the assassin ; but no one appeared to 
know him. Even Timotheus, the priest of Serapis, 
who as head\)f the Museum had so often delighted 
in the piercing intellect of this youth, and had 
prophesied a great future for him, was silent, and 
looked at him with troubled gaze. 

It was the prisoner himself who satisfied Caesar's 
curiosity. Glancing round the circle of courtiers, 



A THORNY PATH. 



229 



and casting a grateful look at his priestly patron, 
he said : 

** It would be asking too much of your Roman 
table-companions that they should know a philoso- 
pher. You may spare yourself the question, Caesar. 
I came here that you might make my acquaintance. 
My name is Philippus, and I am son to Heron, the 
gem-cutter." 

" Her brother ! " screamed Caracalla, as he 
rushed at him, and thrusting his hand into the neck 
of the sick youth's chiton — who already could 
scarcely stand upon his feet — he shook him violent- 
ly, crying, with a scoffing look at the high-priest : 

" And is this the ornament of the Museum, the 
free-thinker, the profound skeptic Philippus ? " 

He stopped suddenly, and his eyes flashed as if 
a new light had burst upon him ; he dropped his 
hand from the prisoner's robe, and bending his 
head close to the other, he whispered in his ear, 
" You have come from Melissa ? " 

" Not from her," the other answered quickly, 
the flush deepening on his face, " but in the name 
of that most unhappy, most pitiable maiden, and 
as the representative of her noble Macedonian 
house, which you would defile with shame and in- 
famy ; in the name of the inhabitants of this city, 
whom you despoil and tread under foot; in the 
interests of the whole world, which you disgrace ! " 

Trembling with fury Caracalla broke in : 

" Who would choose you for their ambassador, 
miserable wretch ? " 

To which the philosopher replied with haughty 
caliii: 

" Think not so lightly of one who looks forward 
with longing to that of which you have an abject 
fear." 



230 



A THORNY PATH. 



"Of death, do you mean?" asked Caracalla, 
sneering, for his wrath had given place to astonish- 
ment. 

And Philip answered : " Yes, Death — with whom 
I have sworn friendship, and who should be ten 
times blessed to me if he would but atone for my 
clumsiness and rid the world of such a monster ! " 

The emperor, still spell-bound by the unheard- 
of audacity of the youth before him, now felt 
moved to keep step with the philosopher, whom few 
could equal in sharpness of wit ; and, controlling 
the raging fury of his blood, he cried, in a tone of 
superiority : 

"So that is the boasted logic of the Museum? 
Death is your dearest desire, and yet you would 
give it to your enemy ? " 

" Quite right/* replied Philip, his lip curling 
with scorn. " For there is something which to the 
philosopher stands higher than logic. It is a 
stranger to you, but you know it perhaps by name 
— it is called Justice." 

These words, and the contemptuous tone in 
which they were spoken, burst the flood-gates of 
Caracalla's painfully restrained passion ; his voice 
rose harsh and loud, till the lion growled angrily 
and dragged at his chain, while his master flung 
hasty words of fury in the iface of his enemy : 

"We shall soon see, my cunning fencer with 
words, whether I know how to follow your advice, 
and how sternly I can exercise that virtue denied 
to me by an assassin. Will any one accuse me now 
of injustice if I punish the accursed brood that has 
grown up in this den of iniquity with all the rigor 
that it deserves ? Yes, glare at me with those 
great, burning eyes ! Alexandrian eyes, promising 
all and granting nothing — persuading him who trusts 



A THORNY PATH. 



231 



in them to believe in innocence and chastity, truth 
and affection. But let him look closer, and he finds 
nothing but deep corruption, foul cunning, despica- 
ble self-seeking, and atrocious faithlessness ! 

" And everything else in this city is like those 
eyes ! Where are there so many gods and priests, 
where do they sacrifice so often, where do they fast 
and apply themselves so assiduously to repentance 
and the cleansing of the soul ? And yet, where 
does vice display itself so freely and so unchecked ? 
This Alexandria — in her youth as dissolute as she 
was fair — what is she now but an old hag ? Now 
that she is toothless, now that wrinkles disfigure 
her face, she has turned pious, that, like the wolf in 
sheep's clothing, she may revenge herself by malice 
for the loss of joy and of the admiration of her lov- 
ers ! I can find no more striking comparison than 
this; for, even as hags find a hideous pleasure in 
empty chatter and spiteful slanderings, so she, once 
so beautiful and renowned, has sunk deeper and 
deeper in the mire, and can not endure to see any- 
thing that has achieved greatness or glory without 
maliciously bespattering it with poison. 

"Justice! — yes, I will exercise justice, oh, sub- 
lime and virtuous hero, going forth to murder — a 
dagger hidden in your bosom ! I thank you for 
that lesson ! 

" Pride of the Museum ! — you lead me to the 
source whence all your corruption flows. It is that 
famous nursery of learning where you, too, were 
bred up. There, yes, there they cherish the heresy 
that makes the gods into puppets of straw, and the 
majesty of the throne into an owl for pert and 
insignificant birds to peck at. Thence comes the 
doctrine that teaches men and women to laugh at 
virtue and to break their word. There, where in 



232 



A THORNY PATH. 



other days noble minds, protected by the overshad- 
owing favor of princes, followed out great ideas, 
they now teach nothing but words — empty, useless 
words. I saw and said that yesterday, and now I 
know it for certain — every poison shaft that your 
malice has aimed at me was forged in the Museum.*' 

He paused for breath, and then continued, with 
a contemptuous laugh : 

" If the justice which you rate higher than logic 
were to take its course, nothing would be juster 
than to make an end this day of this hot-bed of cor- 
ruption. But your unlearned fellow-citizens shall 
taste of my justice, too. You yourself will be pre- 
vented by the beasts in the Circus from looking on 
at the effect your warning words have produced. 
But as yet you are alive, and you shall hear what 
the experiences are which make the severest meas- 
ures the highest justice. 

" What did I hope to find, and what have I really 
found ? I heard the Alexandrians praised for their 
hospitality — for the ardor with which they pursue 
learning — for the great proficiency of their astron- 
omers — for the piety which has raised so many 
altars and invented so many doctrines ; and, lastly, 
for the beauty and fine wit of their women. 

" And this hospitality ! All that I have known 
of it is a flood of malicious abuse and knavish 
scoffing, which penetrated even to the gates of this 
temple, my dwelling. I came here as emperor, and 
treason pursued me wherever I went — even into my 
own apartments ; for there you stand, whom a bar- 
barian had to hinder from stabbing me with the 
knife of the assassin. And your learning? You 
have heard my opinion of the Museum. And the as- 
trologers of this renowned observatory ? The very 
opposite of all they promised me has come to pass. 



A THORNY PATH. 233 

. . , Religion ? The people, of whom you know as 
little from the musty volumes of the Museum as 
of Ultima Thule — the people indeed practice it. 
The old gods are necessary to them. They are 
the bread of life to them. But instead of those you 
have offered them sour, unripe fruit, with a glitter- 
ing rind — from your own garden, of your own grow- 
ing. The fruit of trees is a gift from Nature, and 
all that she brings forth has some good in it ; but 
what you offer to the world is hollow and poisonous. 
Your rhetoric gives it an attractive exterior, and 
that, too, comes from the Museum. There they are 
shrewd enough to create new gods, which start up 
out of the earth like mushrooms. If it should only 
occur to them, they would raise murder to the dig- 
nity of god of gods, and you to be his high-priest." 

"That would be your office," interposed the 
philosopher. 

" You shall see, returned the emperor, laughing 
shrilly, " and the witlings of the Museum with you ! 
You use the knife; but hear the words of the 
master : The teeth of wild beasts and their claws 
are weapons not to be despised. Your father and 
brother, and she who taught me what to think of 
the virtue and faith of Alexandrian women, shall 
tell you this in Hades. Soon shall every one of 
those follow you thither who forgot, even by a 
glance of the eye, that I was Caesar and a guest of 
this city ! After the next performance in the Circus 
the offenders shall tell you in the other world how 
I administer justice. No later than the day after 
to-morrow, I imagine, you may meet there with 
several companions from the Museum. There will 
be enough to clap applause at the disputations ! " 

Caracalla ended his vehement speech with a 
jeering laugh, and looked round eagerly for ap- 



234 A THORNY PATH. 

plause from the ** friends " for whose benefit his last 
words had been spoken ; and it was offered so en- 
ergetically as to drown the philosopher's reply. 

But Caracalla heard it, and when the noise sub- 
sided he asked his condemned victim : 

" What did you mean by your exclamation, 
* And yet I would that death might spare me' ?" 

" In order, if that should come true," returned 
the philosopher quickly, his voice trembling with 
indignation, " that I might be a witness of the grim 
mockery with which the all-requiting gods will 
destroy you, their defender." 

** The gods ! " laughed the emperor. " My re- 
spect for your logic grows less and less. You, the 
skeptic, expect the deeds of a mortal man from 
the gods whose existence you deny ! " 

Then cried Philip, and his great eyes burning 
with hatred and indignation sought the emperor's : 
" Till this hour I was sure of nothing, and therefore 
uncertain of the existence of a god ; but now I be- 
lieve firmly that Nature, by whom everything is 
carried out according to everlasting, immutable 
laws, and who casts out and destroys anything 
that threatens to bring discord into the harmonious 
workings of all her parts, would of her own accord 
bring forth a god, if there be not one already, who 
should crush you, the destroyer of life and peace, 
in his all-powerful hand ! " 

Here his wild outburst of indignation was 
brought to an abrupt close, for a furious blow 
from Caracalla's fist sent his enfeebled enemy stag- 
gering back against the wall near the window. 

Mad with rage, Caracalla shrieked hoarsely : 

" To the beasts with him ! No, not to the beasts 
— to the torture ! He and his sister ! The punish- 
ment I have bethought me of — scum of the earth — " 



A THORNY PATH. 



235 



But the wild despair of the other, in whose 
breast hatred and fever burned with equal strength, 
now reached the highest pitch. Like a hunted 
deer which stays its flight for a moment to find an 
outlet or to turn upon his pursuers, he gazed wildly 
round him, and before the emperor could finish his 
threat, leaning against the pillar of the window as 
if prepared to receive his death-blow, he interrupted 
Caracalla : 

" If your dull wit can invent no death to satisfy 
your cruelty, the blood-hound Zminis can aid you. 
You are a worthy couple. Curses on you ! . . ." 

" At him ! " yelled the emperor to Macrinus and 
the legate, for no substitute had appeared for the 
centurion he had dismissed. 

But while the nobles advanced warily upon the 
madman, and Macrinus called to the Germanic 
body-guard in the anteroom, Philip had turned like 
lightning and disappeared through the window. 

The legates and Caesar came too late to hold 
him back, and from below came cries of : ** Crushed ! 
— dead ! . . . What crime has he committed ? . . . 
They cast him down ! . . . He can not have done it 
himself . . . Impossible ! . . . His arms are bound 
... A new manner of death invented specially for 
the Alexandrians ! " 

Then another whistle sounded, and the shout, 
" Down with the tyrant ! " 

But no second cry followed. The place was too 
full of soldiers and lictors. 

Caracalla heard it all. He turned back into the 
room, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and said 
in a voice of studied unconcern, yet with horrible 
harshness : 

" He deserved his death — ten times over. How- 
ever, I have to thank him for a good suggestion. I 



236 A THORNY PATH. 

had forgotten the Egyptian Zminis. If he-4s still 
alive,- Macrinus, take him from his dungeon and 
bring him here. But quickly — in a chariot ! Let 
him come just as he is. I can make use of him 
now." 

The prefect bowed assent, and by the rapidity 
with which he departed he betrayed how willingly 
he carried out this order of his master's. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

Scarcely had Macrinus closed the door behind 
him, when Caracalla threw himself exhausted on 
the throne, and ordered wine to brought. 

The gloomy gaze he bent upon the ground was 
not affected this time. The physician noted with 
anxiety how his master's breast heaved and his 
eyelids quivered; but when he offered Caesar a 
soothing potion, he waved him away, and com- 
manded him to cease from troubling him. 

For all that, he listened a little later to the 
legate, who brought the news that the youths of 
the city assembled on the race-course were begin- 
ning to be impatient. They were singing and ap- 
plauding boisterously, and the songs they so loudly 
insisted on having repeated would certainly not 
contain matter flattering to the Romans. 

" Leave them alone," answered Caesar, roughly. 
" Every line is aimed at me and no other. But 
the condemned are always allowed their favorite 
meal before the last journey. The food they love 
is venomous satire. Let them enjoy it to the full 
once more ! — Is it far to Zminis's prison ? " 

The reply was in the negative ; and as Caracalla 
exclaimed, " So much the better ! " a significant 
smile played on his lips. 

The high-priest of Serapis had looked on in 
much distress of mind. He, as the head of the 



238 A THORNY PATH. 

Museum, had set high hopes on the youth who had 
come to such a terrible end. if Caesar should carry 
his threats into execution, there would be an end 
to that celebrated home of learning which, in his 
opinion, bore such noble fruits of study. And what 
could ^aracalla mean by his dark saying that the 
sport and mockery of those youths below was their 
last meal ? The worst might indeed be expected 
from the fearful tyrant who was at once so deeply 
wounded and so grievously offended ; and the high- 
priest had already sent messengers — Greeks of good 
credit — to warn the insurgent youths in the sta- 
dium. But, as the chief minister of the divinity, he 
also esteemed it his duty, at any risk to himself, to 
warn the despot, whom he saw on the verge of being 
carried away to deeds of unparalleled horror. He 
thought the time had come, when Caracalla looked 
up from the brooding reverie into which he had 
again sunk, and with an ominous scowl asked 
Timotheus whether his wife, under whose protection 
Melissa had been seen the day before, had known 
that the false-hearted girl had given herself to an- 
other man while she feigned love for him. 

The high-priest repelled the suspicion with his 
usual dignity, and went on to adjure Caesar not to 
visit on an industrious and dutiful community the 
sins of a light-minded girl's base folly and false- 
hood. 

But Caracalla would not suffer him to finish ; he 
wrathfully inquired who had given him a right to 
force his advice on Caesar. 

On this Timotheus replied, with calm dignity : 

" Your own noble words, great Caesar, when, to 
your honor be it spoken, you reminded the mis- 
guided skeptic of the true meaning of the old gods 
and of what is due to them. The god whom I serve, 



A THORNY PATH. 



239 



great Caesar, is second to none : the heavens are his 
head, the ocean is his body, and the earth Bis feet ; 
the sunshine is the light of his all-seeing eye, and 
everything which stirs in the heart or brain of man 
is an emanation of his divine spirit. Thus he is the 
all-pervading soul of the universe, and a portion of 
that soul dwells in you, in me, in all of us. His 
power is greater than any power on earth, and, 
though a well-grounded wrath and only too just in- 
dignation urge you to exert the power lent you by 
him—" 

" And I will exert it ! " Caesar exclaimed with 
haughty rage. "It reaches far. I need no help, 
not even that of your god ! " 

"That I know," replied Timotheus. "And the 
god will let those fall into your hands who have 
sinned against your sacred majesty. Any punish- 
ment, even the severest, will be pleasing in his sight 
which you may inflict on those guilty of high-trea- 
son, for you wear the purple as his gift and in his 
name; those who insult you sin also against the 
god. I myself, with my small power, will help to 
bring the criniinals to justice. But when a whole 
population is accused, when it is beyond the power 
of human justice to separate the innocent from the 
guilty, punishment is the prerogative of the god. 
He will visit on this city the crimes it has com- 
mitted against you ; and I implore you, in the name 
of your noble and admirable mother — whom it has 
been my privilege to entertain under this roof, and 
who in gratitude for the favors of Serapis — " 

**And have I grudged sacrifices?" Caesar broke 
in. " I have done my utmost to win the graces of 
your god — and with what success ? Everything 
that can most aggrieve the heart of man has be- 
fallen me here under his eyes. I have as much 



240 



A THORNY PATH. 



reason to complain of him as to accuse the repro- 
bate natives of your city. He, no doubt, knows 
how to be avenged; the three-headed monster at 
his feet does not look like a lap-dog. Why, he 
would despise me if 1 should leave the punishment 
of the criminals to his tender mercies ! Nay, I can 
do that for myself. Though you have seen me in 
many cases show mercy, it has always been for my 
mother's sake. You have done well to remind me 
of her. That lady — she is, I know, a votary of 
your god. But to me the Alexandrians have dared 
to violate the laws of hospitality ; to her they were 
cordial hosts. I will remember that in their favor. 
And if many escape unpunished, I would have the 
traitors to know that they owe it to the hospitality 
shown to my mother by their parents, or perhaps by 
themselves." 

He was here interrupted by the arrival of Aris- 
tides, who entered in great haste and apparently 
pleased excitement. His spies had seized a male- 
factor who had affixed an epigram of malignant 
purport to the statue of Julia Domna in the Caesa- 
reum. The writer was a pupil of the Museum, and 
had been taken in the stadium, where he was boast- 
ing of his exploit. A spy, mingling with the crowd, 
had laid hands on him, and the captain of the watch 
had forthwith hurried to the Serapeum to boast of 
a success which might confirm him in his yet uncer- 
tain position. The rough sketch of the lines had 
been found on the culprit, and Aristides held the 
tablets on which they were written while Caracalla 
listened to his report. Aristides was breathless with 
eagerness, and Caesar, snatching the tablets impa- 
tiently from his hand, read the following lines : 

*• Wanton, I say, is this dam of irreconcilable brothers !" 

" Mean you Jocasta ? " ** Nay, worse — ^Julia, the wife of Severus." 



A THORNY PATH. 



241 



"The worst of all— but the last!" Caracalla 
snarled, as, turiling pale, he laid the tablets down. 
But he almost instantly took them up again, and 
handing the malignant and lying effusion to the 
high-priest, he exclaimed, with a laugh : 

" This seals the warrant ! Here is my mother 
slandered, too ! Now, the man who sues for mercy 
condemns himself to death!" And, clinching his 
fist, he muttered, " And this, too, is from the Mu- 



seum." 



Timotheus, meanwhile, had also read the lines. 
Even paler than Caracalla, and fully aware that 
any further counsel would be thrown away and 
only turn the emperor's wrath against himself, he 
expressed his anger at this calumny directed 
against the noblest of women, and by a boy hardly 
free from school ! 

But Caracalla furiously broke in : 

" And woe to you if your god refuses me the 
only thing I crave in return for so many sacrifices 
— revenge, complete and sanguinary; atonement 
from great and small alike ! " But he interrupted 
himself with the exclamation : " He grants it ! Now 
for the tool I need." 

The tool was ready — Zminis, the Egyptian, 
answering in every particular to the image which 
Caracalla had had in his mind of the instrument 
who might execute his most bloodthirsty purpose. 

With hair in disorder and a blue-black stubble 
of beard on his haggard yellow cheeks, in a dirty 
gray prison shirt, barefoot, and treading as silently 
as Fate when it creeps on a victim, the rascal ap- 
proached his sovereign. He stood before Cara- 
calla exactly as the prefect, in a swift chariot, had 
brought him out of prison. The white of his long, 
narrow eyes, which had so terrified Melissa, had 
40 



242 



A THORNY PATH. 



turned yellow, and his glance was as restless and 
shifting as that of a hyena. His small head on its 
long neck was never for a moment still ; the ruthless 
wretch had sat waiting day after day in expectation 
of death, and it was by a miracle that he found 
himself once more at the height of his ambition. 
But when at last he inquired of Caracalla, in the 
husky voice which had gained an added hoarse- 
ness from the damp dungeon whence he had been 
brought, what his commands were, looking up at 
him like a starving dog which hopes for a titbit 
from his master's hand, even the fratricide, who 
himself held the sword sharpened to kill, shuddered 
at the sight and sound. 

But Caesar at once recovered himself, and when 
he asked the Egyptian — 

" Will you undertake to help me, as captain of 
the night-watch, to punish the traitors of Alexan- 
dria ? " the answer was confident : 

"What man can do, I can do.'* 

" Good ! " replied Caracalla. " But this is not a 
matter of merely capturing one or another. Every 
one — mark me — every one has merited death who 
has broken the laws of hospitality, that hospitality 
which this lying city offered me. Do you under- 
stand ? Yes ? Well, then, how are we to detect the 
guilty ? Where are we to find spies and execu- 
tioners enough ? How can we punish worst those 
whose wickedness has involved the rest in guilt, es- 
pecially the epigrammatists of the Museum ? How 
are we to discover the ringleaders of those who 
insulted me yesterday in the Circus, and of those 
among the youths in the stadium who have dared 
to express their vile disapproval by whistling in my 
very face ? What steps will you take to hinder a 
single one from escaping ? Consider. How is it to 



A THORNY PATH. 



243 



be done so effectually that I may lie down and say : 
* They have had their deserts. I am content ' ? " 

The Egyptian's eyes wandered round the floor, 
but he presently drew himself up and answered 
briefly and positively, as though he were issuing an 
order to his men : 

« Kill them all ! " 

Caracalla started, and repeated dully, " All ? " 

" All ! " repeated Zminis, with a hideous grin. 
" The young ones are all there, safe in the stadium, 
The men in the Museum fear nothing. Those who 
are in the streets can be cut down. Locked doors 
can be broken in." 

At this, Caesar, who had dropped on to his 
throne, started to his feet, flung the wine-cup he 
held across the room, laughed loudly, and ex- 
claimed : 

" You are the man for me ! To work at once ! 
This will be a day ! — Macrinus, Theocritus, Anti- 
gonus, we need your troops. Send up the legates. 
Those who do not like the taste of blood, may 
sweeten it with plunder." 

He looked young again, as if relieved from 
some burden on his mind, and the thought flashed 
through his brain whether revenge were not sweeter 
than love. 

No one spoke. Even Theocritus, on whose lips 
a word of flattery or applause was always ready, 
looked down in his dismay; but Caracalla, in his 
frenzy of excitement, heeded nothing. 

The hideous suggestion of Zminis seemed to him 
worthy of his greatness by its mere enormity. It 
must be carded out. Ever since he had first donned 
the purple he had made it his aim to be feared. If 
this tremendous deed were done, he need never 
frown again at those whom he wished to terrify. 



244 



A THORNY PATH. 



And then, what a revenge ! If Melissa should 
hear of it, what an effect it must have on her ! 

To work, then ! 

And he added in a gentler tone, as if he had a 
delightful surprise in store for some old friend : 

" But silence, perfect silence — do you hear ? — till 
all is ready. — You, Zminis, may begin on the pipers 
in the stadium and the chatterers in the Museum. 
The prize for soldiers and lictors alike lies in the 
merchants* chests." 

Still no one spoke; and now he observed it. 
His scheme wa's too grand for these feeble spirits. 
He must teach them to silence their conscience and 
the voice of Roman rectitude ; he must take on him- 
self the whole responsibility of this deed, at which 
the timid quaked. So he drew himself up to his full 
height, and, affecting not to see the hesitancy of his 
companions, he said, in a tone of cheerful confi- 
dence : 

" Let each man do his part. All I ask of you is 
to carry out the sentence I pronounce as a judge. 
You know the crime of the citizens of this town, 
and, by virtue of the power I exercise over life 
and death, be it known to all that I, Caesar, con- 
demn — mark the word, condemn — every free male 
of Alexandria, of whatever age or rank, to die by 
the sword of a Roman warrior ! This is a con- 
quered city, which has forfeited every claim to 
quarter. The blood and the treasure of the inhab- 
itants are the prize of my soldiery. Only ** — and 
he turned to Timotheus — " this house of your god, 
which has given me shelter, with the priests and the 
treasure of great Serapis, are spared. .Now it lies 
with each of you to show whether or no he is 
faithful to me. All of you " — and he addressed his 
friends — " all who do me service in avenging me 



A THORNY PATH. 



245 



for the audacious insults which have been offered 
to your sovereign, are assured of my imperial grati- 
tude." 

This declaration was not without effect, and 
murmurs of applause rose from the " friends " and 
favorites, though less enthusiastic than Caracalla 
was accustomed to hear. But the feebleness of this 
demonstration made him all the prouder of his own 
undaunted resolve. 

Macrinus was one of those who had most loudly 
approved him, and Caracalla rejoiced to think that 
this prudent counselor should advise his drinking 
the cup of vengeance to the dregs. Intoxicated 
already before he had even sipped it, he called 
Macrinus and Zminis to his side, and with glowing 
looks impressed on them to take particular care that 
Melissa, with her father, Alexander, and Diodoros 
were brought to him alive. 

" And remember," he added, " there will be many ^ 
weeping mothers here by to-morrow morning; but 
there is one I must see again, and that not as a 
corpse — that bedizened thing in red whom I saw in 
the Circus — I mean the wife of Seleukus, of the 
Kanopic way." 



CHAPTER XXX. 

On the wide ascent leading to the Serapeum the 
praetorians stood awaiting Caesar's commands. 

They had not yet formed in rank and file, but 
were grouped round the centurion Martialis, who 
had come to tell them, sadly, of his removal to 
Edessa, and to take leave of his comrades. He 
gave his hand to each one of them in turn, and re- 
ceived a kindly pressure in return; for the stub- 
born fellow, though not of the cleverest, had proved 
himself a good soldier, and to many of them a 
trusty friend. There was not one who did not re- 
gret his going from among them. But Caesar had 
spoken, and there was no gainsaying his orders. In 
the camp, after service, they might talk the matter 
over ; for the present it were wise to guard their 
tongues. 

The centurion had just said farewell to the last 
of his cohort, when the prefect, with the legate 
Quintus Flavins Nobilior, who commanded the 
legion, and several other higher officers, appeared 
among them. Macrinus greeted them briefly, and, 
instead of having the tuba blown as usual and let- 
ting them fall into their ranks, he told them to 
gather close round him, the centurions in front. He 
then disclosed to them the emperor's secret orders. 

Caesar, he began, had long exercised patience 
and mercy, but the insolence and malice of the 



A THORNY PATH. 



247 



Alexandrians knew no bounds; therefore, in virtue 
of his power over life and death, he had pronounced 
judgment upon them. To them as being nearest 
to his person he handed over the most remunera- 
tive part of the work of punishment. Whomsoever 
they found on the Kanopic way, the greatest and 
richest thoroughfare of the city, they were to cut 
down as they would the rebellious inhabitants of a 
conquered town. Only the \vomen and children 
and the slaves were to be spared. If for this task, 
a hideous one at best, they chose to pay themselves 
out of the treasures of the citizens, nobody would 
blame them. 

A loud cheer followed these orders, and many 
an eye gleamed brighter. Even the coolest among 
them seemed to see a broad, deep pool of blood into 
which he need only dip his hand and bring out 
something worth the catching. And the fish that 
were to be had there were not miserable carp, but 
heavy gold and silver vessels, and coins and mag- 
nificent ornaments. Macrinus then proceeded to 
inform the higher and lower officers of the courii^ 
of action he had agreed upon with the emperor and 
Zminis. Seven trumpet-blasts from the terrace of 
the Serapeum would give the signal for the attack 
to begin. Then they were to advance, maniple on 
maniple ; but they were not required to keep their 
ranks — each man had his own work to do. The 
legion was to assemble again at sunset at the Gate 
of the Sun, at the eastern end of the road, after 
having swept it from end to end. 

By order of the emperor, each man, however, 
must be particularly careful whom he cut down in 
any hiding-place^ for Caesar wished to give the fol- 
lowing Alexandrians — who had sinned most fla- 
grantly against him — the benefit of a trial, and 



248 A THORNY PATH. 

they must therefore be taken alive. He then named 
the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his 
daughter Melissa, the Alexandrian senator Polybius, 
his son Diodoros, and the wife of Seleukus. 

He described them as well as he was able. For 
each one Caesar promised a reward of three thousand 
drachmas, and for Heron's daughter twice as much, 
but only on condition of their being delivered up 
unhurt. It would therefore be to their own advan- 
tage to keep their eyes open in the houses, and to 
be cautious. Whoever should take the daughter of 
the gem-cutter — and he described Melissa once 
more — would render a special service to Caesar and 
might reckon on promotion. 

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the 
end of this discourse, and then hurriedly departed. 
He felt just as he had done in the war with the 
Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt 
him a blow on the helmet with his club. His head 
whirled and swam as it did then — only to-day 
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of 
#eep blue and gold. It was some time before he 
could collect his thoughts to any purpose ; but 
when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled 
Caesar's malignant cruelty in forcing him away 
from his family. 

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied 
smile. He was no longer in that company, and need 
take no part in the horrid butchery. In any other 
place he would no doubt have joined in it like the 
rest, glad of the rich booty ; but here, in his own home, 
where his mother and wife and child dwelt, it seemed 
a monstrous and accursed deed. Besides the gem- 
cutter's family, in whom Martialis took no interest, 
Caesar seemed to have a special grudge against the 
lady Berenike, whose husband Seleukus had been 



A THORNY PATH. 



249 



master to the centurion's father; nay, his own wife 
was still in the service of the merchant. 

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered 
the army early. As Evocatus he had married the 
daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus, and when 
he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his 
wife had obtained the post of superintendent of the 
merchant's villa at Kanopus. For this they had to 
thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her now 
dead daughter Korinna ; and he was honestly grate- 
ful to the wife of Seleukus, for, as his wife was 
established in the villa, he could leave her with- 
out anxiety and go with the army wherever it was 
ordered. 

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street 
on his way to his family, he perceived the statues 
of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side 
of the entrance to the merchant's house, and his slow 
mind recapitulated the long list of benefits he had 
received from Seleukus and his wife ; a secret voice 
urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them. 

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, 
who out of pure malice could deprive an honest 
soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him of 
half his pay — for the praetorians had twice the 
wages of the other troops; and if he only knew 
some handicraft, he would throw away his sword to- 
day. 

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar's 
ruthless schemes, besides doing his benefactors a 
good turn. He therefore entered the house of the 
merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward 
way. 

He was well known, and the mistress of the 
house was at once apprised of his arrival. 

All the lower apartments were empty, the sol- 



248 A THORNY PATH. 

they must therefore be taken alive. He then named 
the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his 
daughter Melissa, the Alexandrian senator Polybius, 
his son Diodoros, and the wife of Seleukus. 

He described them as well as he was able. For 
each one Caesar promised a reward of three thousand 
drachmas, and for Heron's daughter twice as much, 
but only on condition of their being delivered up 
unhurt. It would therefore be to their own advan- 
tage to keep their eyes open in the houses, and to 
be cautious. Whoever should take the daughter of 
the gem-cutter — and he described Melissa once 
more — would render a special service to Caesar and 
might reckon on promotion. 

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the 
end of this discourse, and then hurriedly departed. 
He felt just as he had done in the war with the 
Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt 
him a blow on the helmet with his club. His head 
whirled and swam as it did then — only to-day 
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of 
(leep blue and gold. It was some time before he 
could collect his thoughts to any purpose ; but 
when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled 
Caesar's malignant cruelty in forcing him away 
from his family. 

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied 
smile. He was no longer in that company, and need 
take no part in the horrid butchery. In any other 
place he would no doubt have joined in it like the 
rest, glad of the rich booty ; but here, in his own home, 
where his mother and wife and child dwelt, it seemed 
a monstrous and accursed deed. Besides the gem- 
cutter's family, in whom Martialis took no interest, 
Caesar seemed to have a special grudge against the 
lady Berenike, whose husband Seleukus had been 



A THORNY PATH. 



249 



master to the centurion's father; nay, his own wife 
was still in the service of the merchant. 

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered 
the army early. As Evocatus he had married the 
daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus, and when 
he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his 
wife had obtained the post of superintendent of the 
merchant's villa at Kanopus. For this they had to 
thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her now 
dead daughter Korinna ; and he was honestly grate- 
ful to the wife of Seleukus, for, as his wife was 
established in the villa, he could leave her with- 
out anxiety and go with the army wherever it was 
ordered. 

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street 
on his way to his family, he perceived the statues 
of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side 
of the entrance to the merchant's house, and his slow 
mind recapitulated the long list of benefits he had 
received from Seleukus and his wife ; a secret voice 
urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them. 

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, 
who out of pure malice could deprive an honest 
soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him of 
half his pay — for the praetorians had twice the 
wages of the other troops; and if he only knew 
some handicraft, he would throw away his sword to- 
day. 

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar's 
ruthless schemes, besides doing his benefactors a 
good turn. He therefore entered the house of the 
merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward 
way. 

He was well known, and the mistress of the 
house was at once apprised of his arrival. 

All the lower apartments were empty, the sol- 



248 



A THORNY PATH. 



they must therefore be taken alive. He then named 
the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his 
daughter Melissa, the Alexandrian senator Polybius, 
his son Diodoros, and the wife of Seleukus. 

He described them as well as he was able. For 
each one Caesar promised a reward of three thousand 
drachmas, and for Heron's daughter twice as much, 
but only on condition of their being delivered up 
unhurt. It would therefore be to their own advan- 
tage to keep their eyes open in the houses, and to 
be cautious. Whoever should take the daughter of 
the gem-cutter — and he described Melissa once 
more — would render a special service to Caesar and 
might reckon on promotion. 

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the 
end of this discourse, and then hurriedly departed. 
He felt just as he had done in the war with the 
Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt 
him a blow on the helmet with his club. His head 
whirled and swam as it did then — only to-day 
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of 
4eep blue and gold. It was some time before he 
could collect his thoughts to any purpose ; but 
when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled 
Caesar's malignant cruelty in forcing him away 
from his family. 

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied 
smile. He was no longer in that company, and need 
take no part in the horrid butchery. In any other 
place he would no doubt have joined in it like the 
rest, glad of the rich booty ; but here, in his own home, 
where his mother and wife and child dwelt, it seemed 
a monstrous and accursed deed. Besides the gem- 
cutter's family, in whom Martialis took no interest, 
Caesar seemed to have a special grudge against the 
lady Berenike, whose husband Seleukus had been 



A THORNY PATH. 



249 



master to the centurion's father ; nay, his own wife 
was still in the service of the merchant. 

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered 
the army early. As Evocatus he had married the 
daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus, and when 
he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his 
wife had obtained the post of superintendent of the 
merchant's villa at Kanopus. For this they had to 
thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her now 
dead daughter Korinna ; and he was honestly grate- 
ful to the wife of Seleukus, for, as his wife was 
established in the villa, he could leave her with- 
out anxiety and go with the army wherever it was 
ordered. 

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street 
on his way to his family, he perceived the statues 
of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side 
of the entrance to the merchant's house, and his slow 
mind recapitulated the long list of benefits he had 
received from Seleukus and his wife ; a secret voice 
urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them. 

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, 
who out of pure malice could deprive an honest 
soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him of 
half his pay — for the praetorians had twice the 
wages of the other troops; and if he only knew 
some handicraft, he would throw away his sword to- 
day. 

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar's 
ruthless schemes, besides doing his benefactors a 
good turn. He therefore entered the house of the 
merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward 
way. 

He was well known, and the mistress of the 
house was at once apprised of his arrival. 

All the lower apartments were empty, the sol- 



248 A THORNY PATH. 

they must therefore be taken alive. He then named 
the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his 
daughter Melissa, the Alexandrian senator Polybius, 
his son Diodoros, and the wife of Seleukus. 

He described them as well as he was able. For 
each one Caesar promised a reward of three thousand 
drachmas, and for Heron's daughter twice as much, 
but only on condition of their being delivered up 
unhurt. It would therefore be to their own advan- 
tage to keep their eyes open in the houses, and to 
be cautious. Whoever should take the daughter of 
the gem-cutter — and he described Melissa once 
more — would render a special service to Caesar and 
might reckon on promotion. 

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the 
end of this discourse, and then hurriedly departed. 
He felt just as he had done in the war with the 
Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt 
him a blow on the helmet with his club. His head 
whirled and swam as it did then — only to-day 
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of 
4eep blue and gold. It was some time before he 
could collect his thoughts to any purpose; but 
when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled 
Caesar's malignant cruelty in forcing him away 
from his family. 

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied 
smile. He was no longer in that company, and need 
take no part in the horrid butchery. In any other 
place he would no doubt have joined in it like the 
rest, glad of the rich booty ; but here, in his own home, 
where his mother and wife and child dwelt, it seemed 
a monstrous and accursed deed. Besides the gem- 
cutter's family, in whom Martialis took no interest, 
Caesar seemed to have a special grudge against the 
lady Berenike, whose husband Seleukus had been 



A THORNY PATH. 



249 



master to the centurion's father ; nay, his own wife 
was still in the service of the merchant. 

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered 
the army early. As Evocatus he had married the 
daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus, and when 
he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his 
wife had obtained the post of superintendent of the 
merchant's villa at Kanopus. For this they had to 
thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her now 
dead daughter Korinna ; and he was honestly grate- 
ful to the wife of Seleukus, for, as his wife was 
established in the villa, he could leave her with- 
out anxiety and go with the army wherever it was 
ordered. 

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street 
on his way to his family, he perceived the statues 
of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side 
of the entrance to the merchant's house, and his slow 
mind recapitulated the long list of benefits he had 
received from Seleukus and his wife ; a secret voice 
urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them. 

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, 
who out of pure malice could deprive an honest 
soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him of 
half his pay — for the praetorians had twice the 
wages of the other troops; and if he only knew 
some handicraft, he would throw away his sword to- 
day. 

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar's 
ruthless schemes, besides doing his benefactors a 
good turn. He therefore entered the house of the 
merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward 
way. 

He was well known, and the mistress of the 
house was at once apprised of his arrival. 

All the lower apartments were empty, the sol- 



250 



A THORNY PATH. 



diers who had been quartered in them having joined 
the others at the Serapeum. 

But what had happened to the exquisite garden 
in the impluvium ? What hideous traces showed 
where the soldiers had camped, and, drunk with 
their host's costly wine, had given free play to their 
reckless spirits ! 

The velvet lawn looked like a stable-floor ; the 
rare shrubs had been denuded of their flowers and 
branches. Blackened patches on the mosaic pave- 
ment showed where fires had been kindled; the 
colonnades were turned into drying-grounds for the 
soldiers' linen, and a rope on which hung some 
newly washed clothes was wound at one end round 
the neck of a Venus from the hand of Praxiteles, 
and at the other round the lyre of an Apollo fash- 
ioned in marble by Bryaxis. Some Indian shrubs, 
of which his father-in-law had been very proud, 
were trampled under foot ; and in the great banquet- 
ing-hall, which had served as sleeping-room for a 
hundred praetorians, costly cushions and draperies 
were strewn, torn from the couches and walls to 
make their beds more comfortable. 

Used to the sights of war as he was, the soldier 
ground his teeth with wrath at this scene. As long 
as he could remember, he had looked upon every- 
thing here with reverence and awe ; and to think 
that his comrades had destroyed it all made his 
blood boil. 

As he approached the women's apartments he 
took fright. How was he to disclose to his mistress 
what threatened her ? 

But it must be done ; so he followed the waiting- 
maid Johanna, who led him to her lady's living- 
room. 

In it sat the Christian steward Johannes, with 



A THORNY PATH. 



251 



writing tablets and scrolls of papyrus, working in 
the service of his patroness. She herself was with 
the wounded Aurelius; and Martialis, on hearing 
this, begged to be admitted to her. 

Berenike was in the act of renewing the wounded 
soldier's bandages, and when the centurion saw how 
cruelly disfigured was the handsome, blooming face 
of the young tribune, to whom he was heartily at- 
tached, the tears rose to his eyes. The matron 
observed it, and witnessed with much surprise the 
affectionate greeting between the young noble and 
the plain soldier. 

The centurion greeted her respectfully; but it 
was not till Nemesianus asked him how it was that 
the troops had been called to arms at this hour, that 
Martialis plucked up courage and begged the lady 
of the house to grant him an interview. 

But Berenike had still to wash and bandage the 
wounds of her patient — a task which she always per- 
formed herself and with the greatest care; she 
therefore promised the soldier to be at his disposal 
in half an hour. 

" Then it will be too late ! " burst from the lips 
of the centurion ; then she knew, by his voice and 
the terror-stricken aspect of the man whom she had 
known so long, that he meant to warn her, and 
there was but one from whom the danger could 
come. 

** Caesar ? " she asked. " He is sending out his 
creatures to murder me ? " 

The imperious gaze of Berenike's large eyes so 
overpowered the simple soldier as to render him 
speechless for a while. But Caesar had threatened 
his mistress's life — he must collect himself, and 
thus he managed to stammer : 

" No, lady, no ! He will not have you killed — 



252 



A THORNY PATH. 



assuredly not! On the contrary — they are to let 
you live when they cut down the others ! " 

" Cut down ! " cried Apollinaris, raising himself 
up and staring horrified at this messenger of terror ; 
but his brother laid his hand upon the centurion's 
broad shoulder, and, shaking him vigorously, com- 
manded him as his tribune to speak out. 

The soldier, ever accustomed to obey, and only 
too anxious that his warning should not come too 
late, disclosed in hurried words what he had learned 
from the prefect. The brothers interrupted him 
from time to time with some exclamation of horror 
or disgust, but Berenike remained silent till Mar- 
tialis stopped with a deep breath. 

Then the lady gave a shrill laugh, and as the 
others looked at her in amazement she said coolly : 

" You men will wade through blood and shame 
with that reprobate, if he but orders you to do so. 
I am only a woman, and yet I will show him that 
there are limits even to his malignity." 

She remained for a few moments lost in thought, 
and then ordered the centurion to go and find out 
where her husband was. 

Martialis obeyed at once, and no sooner was the 
door closed behind him than she turned to the two 
brothers, and addressing herself first to one and 
then to the other with equal vehemence, she cried : 

" Who is right now ? Of all the villains who 
have brought shame upon the throne and name of 
mighty Caesar, this is the most dastardly. He has 
written plainly enough upon Apollinaris's face how 
much he values a brave soldier, the son of a noble 
house. And you, Nemesianus — are you not also 
an Aurelius ? You say so ; and yet, had he not 
chanced to let you care for your brother, you would 
at this moment be wandering through the city like 



A THORNY PATH. 



2S3 



a mad dog, biting all who crossed your path. Why 
do you not speak ? Why not tell me once more, Ne- 
mesianus, that a soldier must obey his commander 
blindly ? — And you, Apollinaris, will you dare still to 
assert that the hand with which Caesar tore your face 
was guided only by righteous indignation at an in- 
sult offered to an innocent maiden ? Have you the 
courage to excuse the murders by Caracalla of his 
own wife, and many other noble women, by his 
anxiety for the safety of throne and state ? I, too, 
am a woman, and may hold up my head with the 
best ; but what have I to do with the state or with 
the throne ? My eye met his, and from that moment 
the fiend was my deadly enemy. A quick death at 
the hands of one of his soldiers seemed too good for 
the woman he hated. Wild beasts were to tear me 
to pieces before his eyes. Is that not sufficient for 
you ? Put every abomination together, everything 
unworthy of an honorable man and abhorrent to the 
gods, and you have the man whom you so willingly 
obey. I am only the wife of a citizen. But were I 
the widow of a noble Aurelian and your mother — " 

Here Apollinaris, whose wounds were beginning 
to burn again, broke in : " She would have coun- 
seled us to leave revenge to the gods. He is 
Caesar ! " 

" He is a villain ! " shrieked the matron—" the 
curse, the shame of humanity, a damnable destroyer 
of peace and honor and life, such as the world has 
never beheld before ! To kill him would be to earn 
the gratitude and blessing of the universe. And 
you, the scions of a noble house, you, I say, prove 
that there still are men among so many slaves ! It 
is Rome herself who calls you through me — like her, 
a woman maltreated and wounded to the heart's 
core — to bear arms in her service till she gives you 



254 



A THORNY PATH. 



the signal for making an end of the dastardly blood- 
hound ! " 

The brothers gazed at one another pale and 
speechless, till at last Nemesianus ventured to say : 

** He deserves to die, we know, a thousand 
deaths, but we are neither judges nor executioners. 
We can not do the work of the assassin." 

" No, lady, we can not," added Apollinaris, and 
shook his wounded head energetically. 

But the lady, nothing daunted, went on : " Who 
has ever called Brutus a murderer ? You are 
young — Life lies before you. To plunge a sword 
into the heart of this monster is a deed for which 
you are too good. But I know a hand that un- 
derstands its work and would be ready to guide 
the steel. Call it out at the right moment and be 
its guide ! " 

" And that hand ? " Apollinaris asked in anxious 
expectation. 

" It is there," replied Berenike, pointing to Mar- 
tialis, who entered the room at that moment. 

Again the brothers interchanged looks of doubt, 
but the lady cried: "Consider for a moment! I 
would fain go hence with the certainty that the one 
burning desire shall be fulfilled which still warms 
this frozen heart." 

She motioned to the centurion, left the apart- 
ment with him, and preceded him to her own room. 
Arrived there, she ordered the astonished freedman 
Johannes, in his office as notary, to add a codicil to 
her will. In the event of her death, she left to 
Xanthe, the wife of the centurion Martialis, her 
lawful property the villa at Kanopus, with all it 
contained, and the gardens appertaining to it, for 
the free use of herself and her children. 

The soldier listened speechless with astonish- 



A THORNY PATH. 



255 



ment. This gift was worth twenty houses in the 
city, and made its owner a rich man. But the tes- 
tator was scarcely ten years older than his Xanthe, 
and, as he kissed the hem of his mistress's robe in 
grateful emotion, he cried : " May the gods reward 
you for your generosity ; but we will pray and offer 
up sacrifices that it may be long before this comes 
into our hands! " 

The lady shook her head with a bitter smile, and, 
drawing the soldier aside, she disclosed to him in 
rapid words her determination to quit this life be- 
fore the praetorians entered the house. She then 
informed the horror-stricken man that she had 
chosen him to be her avenger. To him, too, the 
emperor had dealt a malicious blow. Let him re- 
member that, when the time came to plunge the 
sword in the tyrant's heart. Should this deed, 
however, cost Martialis his life — which he had 
risked in many a battle for miserable pay — her will 
would enable his widow to bring up their children 
in happiness and comfort. 

The centurion had thrown in a deprecatory word 
or two, but Berenike continued as if she had not 
heard him, till at last Martialis cried : 

" You ask too much of me, lady. Caesar is 
hateful to me, but I am no longer one of the praeto- 
rians, and am banished the country. How is it 
possible that I should approach him ? How dare I, 



a common man — " 



The lady came closer to him, and whispered : 
" You will perform this deed to which I have 
appointed you in the name of all the just. We de- 
mand nothing from you but your sword. Greater 
men than you — the two Aurelians — will guide it. 
At their word of command you will do the deed. 
When they give you the signal, brave Martialis, 



256 A THORNY PATH. 

remember the unfortunate woman in Alexandria 
whose death you swore to revenge. As soon as the 
tribunes — " 

But the centurion was suddenly transformed. 

" If the tribunes command it," he interrupted 
with decision, his dull eye flashing — " if they de- 
mand it of me, I do it willingly. Tell them Martia- 
lis's sword is ever at their service. It has made 
short work of stronger men than that vicious strip- 
ling." 

Berenike gave the soldier her hand, thanked 
him hurriedly, and begged him, as he could pass 
unharmed through the city, to hasten to her hus- 
band's counting-house by the water-side, to warn 
him and carry him her last greetings. 

With tears in his eyes Martialis did as she de- 
sired. When he had gone, the steward began to 
implore his mistress to conceal herself, and not cast 
away God's gift of life so sinfully ; but she turned 
from him resolutely though kindly, and repaired 
once more to the brothers' room. 

One glance at them disclosed to her that they 
had come to no definite conclusion ; but their hesi- 
tation vanished as soon as they heard that the cen- 
turion was ready to draw his sword upon the em- 
peror when they should give the signal ; and Be- 
renike breathed, a sigh of relief at this resolution, 
and clasped their hands in gratitude. 

They, too, implored her to conceal herself, but 
she merely answered : 

" May your youth grow into happy old age ! 
Life can offer me nothing more, since my child was 
taken from me — But time presses — I welcome 
the murderers, now that I know that revenge will 
not sleep." 

"And your husband?" interposed Nemesianus. 



A THORNY PATH. 



257 



She answered with a bitter smile : " He ? He 
has the gift of being easily consoled. — But what 
was that ? " 

Loud voices were audible outside the sick-room. 
Nemesianus stationed himself in front of the lady^ 
sword in hand. This protection, however, proved 
unnecessary, for, instead of the praetorians, Johanna 
entered the room, supporting on her arm the half- 
sinking form of a young man in whom no one would 
have recognized the once beautifully curled and 
carefully dressed Alexander. A long caracalla cov- 
ered his tall form ; Dido the slave had cut off his 
hair, and he himself had disguised his features 
with streaks of paint. A large, broad-brimmed hat 
had slipped to the back of his head like a drunken 
man's, and covered a wound ^om which the red 
blood flowed down upon his neck. His whole as- 
pect breathed pain and horror, and Berenike, who 
took him for a hired cut-throat sent by Caracalla, 
retreated hastily from him till Johanna revealed his 
name. 

He nodded his head in confirmation, and then 
sank exhausted on his knees beside Apollinaris's 
couch and managed with great difficulty to stam- 
mer out : " I am searching for Philip. He went into 
the town-^ill — out of his senses. Did he not come 
to you ? " 

" No," answered Berenike. " But what is this 
fresh blood ? Has the slaughter begun } " 

The wounded man nodded. Then he continued, 
with a groan : " In front of the house of your 
neighbor Milon — the back of my head — I fled — a 
lance — " 

His voice failed him, and Berenike cried to the 
tribune : " Support him, Nemesianus ! Look after 
him and tend him. He is the brother of the maiden 

41 



258 A THORNY PATH. 

— you know — If I know you, you will do all in 
your power for him, and keep him hidden here till 
all danger is over." 

"We will defend him with our lives!" cried 
Apollinaris, giving his hand to the lady. 

But he withdrew it quickly, for from the implu^ 
vium arose the rattle of arms, and loud, confused 
noise. 

Berenike threw up her head and lifted her hands 
as if in prayer^ Her bosom heaved with her deep 
breath, the delicate nostrils quivered, and the great 
eyes flashed with wrathful light. For a moment she 
stood thus silent, then let her arms fall, and cried 
to the tribunes : 

" My curse be upon you if you forget what you 
owe to yourselves, li|the Roman Empire, and to your 
dying friend. My blessing, if you hold fast to what 
you have promised." 

She pressed their hands, and, turning to do the 
san^e to the artist, found that he had lost conscious- 
ness. Johanna and Nemesianus had removed his 
hat and caracalla, to attend to his wound. 

A strange smile passed over the matron's stern 
features. Snatching the Gallic mantle from the 
Christian's hand, she threw it over her own shoul- 
ders, exclaiming : 

" How the ruffian will wonder when, instead of ■ 
the living woman, they bring him a corpse wrapped 
in his barbarian's mantle ! " 

She pressed the hat upon her head, and from a 
corner of the room where the brothers' weapons 
stood, selected a hunting-spear. She asked if this 
weapon might be recognized as belonging to 
them, and, on their answering in the negative, 
said : 

" My thanks, then, for this last gift ! " 



Ä THORNY PATH. 



259 



' At the last moment she turned to the waiting- 
woman : 

" Your brother will help you to burn Korinna's 
picture. No shameless gaze shall dishonor it again." 

She tore her hand from that of the Christian, 
who, with hot tears, tried to hold her back ; then, 
carrying her head proudly erect, she left them. 

The brothers gazed shudderingly after her. 

"And to know," cried Nemesianus, striking his 
forehead, " that our own comrades will slay her ! 
Never were the swords of Rome so disgraced ! " 

"He shall pay for it!" replied the wounded 
man, gnashing his teeth. "Brother, we must 
avenge her ! " 

" Yes — her, and — may the gods hear me ! — you 
too, Apollinaris," swore the other, lifting his hand 
as for an oath. 

Loud screams, the clash of arms, and quick 
orders sounded from below and broke in upon the 
tribune's vow. He was rushing to the window to 
draw back the curtain and look upon the horrid 
deed with his own eyes, when Apollinaris called 
him back, reminding him of their duty toward Me- 
lissa's brother, who was lost if the others discovered 
him here. 

Hereupon Nemesianus lifted the fainting youth 
in his strong arms and carried him into the adjoin- 
ing room, laying him upon the mat which had served 
their faithful old slave as a bed. He then covered 
him with his own mantle, after hastily binding up the 
wound on his head and another on his shoulder. 

By the time the tribune returned to his brother 
the noise outside had grown considerably less, only 
pitiable cries of anguish mingled with the shouts of 
the soldiers. 

Nemesianus hastily pulled aside the curtain, let» 



26o A THORNY PATH. 

ting such a flood of blinding sunshine into the room 
that ApoUinaris covered his wounded face with his 
hands and groaned aloud. 

"Sickening ! Horrible ! Unheard of ! " cried his 
brother, beside himself at the sight that met his 
eyes. " A battle-field ! What do I say ? The peace- 
ful house of a Roman citizen turned into shambles. 
Fifteen, twenty, thirty bodies on the grass! And 
the sunshine plays as brightly on the pools of blood 
and the arms of the soldiers as if it rejoiced in it 
all. But there — Oh, brother I our Marcipor — ^there 
lies our dear old Marci ! — and beside him the basket 
of roses he had fetched for the lady Berenike from 
the floWer-market. There they lie, steeped in blood, 
the red and white roses ; and the bright sun looks 
down from heaven and laughs upon it ! " 

He broke down into sobs, and then continued, 
gnashing his teeth with rage : " Apollo smiles upon 
it, but he sees it ; and wait — wait but a little longer, 
Tarautas ! The god stretches out his hand already 
for the avenging bow ! Has Berenike ventured 
among them? Near the fountain — how it flashes 
and glitters with the hues of Iris ! — they are crowd- 
ing round something on the ground — Mayhap the 
body of Seleukus. No — the crowd is separating. 
Eternal gods! It is she — it is the woman who 
tended you ! " 

" Dead ?" asked the other. 

" She is lying on the ground with a spear in her 
bosom. Now the legate — yes, it is Quintus Flavius 
Nobilior — bends over her and draws it out. Dead 
— dead ! and slain by a man of our cohort ! " 

He clasped his hands before his face, while 
ApoUinaris muttered curses, and the name of their 
faithful Marcipor, who had served their father be- 
fore them, coupled with wild vows of vengeance. 



A THORNY PATH. 26 1 

Nemesianus at length composed himself suffi- 
ciently to follow the course of the -horrible events 
going on below. 

" Now," he went on, describing it to his brother, 
"now they are surrounding Rufus. That merci- 
less scoundrel must have done something abomi- 
nable, that even goes beyond what his fellows can 
put up with. There they have caught a slave with 
a bundle in his hand, perhaps stolen goods. They 
will punish him with death, and are themselves no 
better than he. If you could only see how they 
come swarming from every side with their costly 
plunder! The magnificent golden jug set with 
jewels, out of which the lady Berenike poured the 
Byblos wine for you, is there too ! — Are we still 
soldiers, or robbers and murderers ? " 

"If we are," cried Apollinaris, "I know who 
has made us so." 

They were startled by the approaching rattle of 
arms in the corridor, and then a loud knock at the 
chamber-door. The next moment a soldier's head 
appeared in the doorway, to be quickly withdrawn 
with the exclamation, " It is true — here lies Apolli- 
naris ! " 

" One moment," said a second deep voice, and 
over the threshold stepped the legate of the legion, 
Quintus Flavius Nobilior, in all the panoply of war, 
and saluted the brothers. 

Like them, he came of an old and honorable 
race, and was acting in place of the prefect Macri- 
nus, whose office in the state prevented him from 
taking the military command of that mighty corps, 
the praetorians. Twenty years older tlian the twins, 
and a companion-in-arms of their father, he had 
managed their rapid promotion. He was their faith- 
ful friend and patron, and Apollinaris's misfortune 



262 A THORNY PATH. 

had disgusted him no less than the order in the exe- 
cution of which he was now obliged to take part. 

Having greeted the brothers affectionately, ob- 
served their painful emotion, and heard their com- 
plaints over the murder of their slave, he shook his 
manly head, and pointing to the blood that dripped 
from his boots and greaves, " Forgive me for thus 
defiling your apartments," he said. " If we came 
from slaughtering men upon the field of battle, it 
could only do honor to the soldier ; but this is the 
blood of defenseless citizens, and even women's 
gore is mixed with it." 

" I saw the body of the lady of this house," said 
Nemesianus, gloomily. " She has tended my broth- 
er like a mother." 

"But, on the other hand, she was imprudent 
enough to draw down Caesar's displeasure upon 
her," interposed the Flavian, shrugging his shoul- 
ders. " We were to bring her to him alive, but he 
had anything but friendly intentions toward her; 
however, she spoiled his game. A wonderful wom- 
an ! I have scarcely seen a man look death — ^and 
self -sought death — in the face like that ! While the 
soldiers down there were massacring all who fell in-, 
to their hands — those were the orders, and I looked 
on at the butchery, for, rather than — well, you can 
imagine that for yourselves — through one of the 
doors there came a tall, extraordinary figure. The 
wide brim of a traveling hat concealed the features, 
and it was wrapped in one of the emperor's fool's 
mantles. It hurried toward the maniple of Sem- 
pronius, brandishing a javelin, and with a sonorous 
voice reviling the soldiers till even my temper was 
roused Here I caught sight of a flowing robe be- 
neath the caracalla, and, the hat having fallen back, 
a beautiful woman's face with large and fear-inspir- 



A THORNY PATH. 263 

ing eyes. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that 
this grim despiser of death, being a woman, was 
doubtless she whom we were to spare. I shouted 
this to my men ; but — and at that moment I was 
heartily ashamed of my profession — it was too late. 
Tall Rufus pierced her through with his lance. 
Even in falling she preserved the dignity of a 
queen, and when the men surrounded her she fixed 
each one separately with her wonderful eyes and 
spoke through the death-rattle in her throat : 
^ Shame upon men and soldiers who let themselves 
be hounded on like dogs to murder and dishonor ! * 
Rufus raised his sword to make an end of her, but 
I caught his arm and knelt beside her, begging her 
to let me see to her wound. With that she seized 
the lance in her breast with both hands, and with 
her last breath murmured, * He desired to see the 
living woman — bring him my body, and my curse 
with it ! Then with a last supreme effort she buried 
the spear still deeper in her bosom ; but it was not 
necessary. 

"I gazed petrified at the high-bred, wrathful 
face, still beautiful in death, and the mysterious, 
wide-open eyes that must have flashed so proudly 
in life. It was enough to drive a man mad. Even 
after I had closed her eyes and spread the mantle 
over her — " 

"What has been done with the body?" asked 
Apollinaris. 

" I caused it to be carried into the house and the 
door of the death-chamber carefully locked. But 
when I returned to the men, I had to prevent them 
from tearing Rufus to pieces for having lost them 
the large reward which Caesar had promised for the 
living prisoner." 

" And you/* cried Apollinaris, excitedly, " had to 



264 A THORNY PATH. 

look on while our men, honest soldiers, plundered 
this house — which entertained many of us so hos- 
pitably — as if they had been a band of robbers ! I 
saw them dragging out things which were used in 
our service only yesterday." 

" The emperor — his permission ! " sighed Flavius. 
" You know how it is. The lowest instincts of every 
nature come out at such a time as this, and the sun 
shines upon it all. Many a poor wretch of yester- 
day will go to bed a wealthy man to-day. But, for 
all that, I believe much was hidden from them. 
In the room of the mistress of the house whence 
I have just come, a fire was still blazing in which a 
variety of objects had been burned. The flames 
had destroyed a picture — a small painted fragment 
betrayed the fact. They perhaps possessed master- 
pieces of Apelles or Zeuxis. This woman's hatred 
would lead her to destroy them rather than let 
them fall into the hands of her imperial enemy ; and 
who can blame her ? *' 

" It was her daughter's portrait," said Neme- 
sianus, unguardedly. 

The legate turned upon him in surprise. 

" Then she confided in you ? " he asked. 

" Yes," returned the tribune, " and we are proud 
to have been so honored by her. Before she went 
to her death she took leave of us. We let her go ; 
for we at least could not bring ourselves to lay 
hands upon a noble lady." 

The officer looked sternly at him and exclaimed, 
angrily : 

"Do you suppose, young upstart, that it was 
less painful to me and many another among us? 
Cursed be this day, that has soiled our weapons 
with the blood of women and slaves, and may every 
drachma which I take from the plunder here bring 



A THORNY PATH. 265 

ill-luck with it ! Call the accident that has kept you 
out of this despicable work a stroke of good fortune, 
but beware how you look down upon those whose 
oath forces them to crush out every human feeling 
from their hearts ! The soldier who takes part with 
his commander's enemy — " 

He was interrupted by the entrance of Johanna, 
the Christian, who saluted the legate, and then 
stood confused and embarrassed by the side of 
ApoUinaris's bed. The furtive glance she cast first 
at the side-room and then at Nemesianus did not 
pass unobserved by the quick eye of the commander, 
and with soldierly firmness he insisted on knowing 
what was concealed behind that door. 

"An unfortunate man," was Apollinaris's an- 
swer. 

"Seleukus, the master of this house?" asked 
Quintus Flavius, sternly. 

" No," replied Nemesianus. " It is only a poor, 
wounded painter. And yet — the praetorians will go 
through fire and water for you, if you deliver up 
this maa to them as their booty. But if you are 
what I hold you to be — " 

" The opinion of hot-headed boys is of as little 
consequence to me as the favor of my subordinates," 
interposed the commander. "Whatever my con-^ 
science tells me is right, I shall do. Quick, now ! 
Who is in there ? " 

"The brother of the maiden for whose sake 
Caesar — " stammered the wounded man. 

" The maiden whom you have to thank for that 
disfigured face?" cried the legate. "You are true 
Aurelians, you boys; and, though you may doubt 
whether I am the man you take me for, I confess 
with pleasure that you are exactly as I would wish 
to have you. The praetorians have slain your friend 



266 A THORNY PATH. 

and servant ; I give you that man to make amends 
for it." 

With deep emotion Nemesianus seized his old 
friend's hands, and Apollinaris spoke words of grati- 
tude to him from his couch. The officer would 
not listen to their thanks, and walked toward the 
door ; but Johanna stood before him, and entreated 
him to allow the twins, whose servant had been 
killed, to take another, from whom they need have 
no fear of treachery. He had been captured in the 
impluvium by the praetorians while trying, in the 
face of every danger, to enter the house where the 
painter lay, to whose father he had belonged for 
many years. He would be able to tend both Apol- 
linaris and Melissa's brother, and make it possible 
to keep Alexander's hiding-place a secret. The 
soldiery would be certain to penetrate as far as this, 
and other lives would be endangered if they should 
bear off the faithful servant and force him on the 
rack to disclose where Melissa's father and relatives 
were hidden. 

The legate promised to insure the freedom of 
Argutis. 

A few more words of thanks and farewell, and 
Quintus had fulfilled his mission to the Aurelians. 
Shortly afterward the tuba sounded to assemble 
the plunderers still scattered about Seleukus's 
house, and Nemesianus saw the men marching in 
small companies into the great hall. They were 
followed by their armor-bearers, loaded with treas- 
ure of every kind; and three chariots, drawn by 
fine horses, belonging to Seleukus and his mur- 
dered wife, conveyed such booty as was too heavy 
for men to carry. In the last of these stood the 
statue of Eros by Praxiteles. The glorious sun- 
shine lighted up the smiling marble face ; with the 



A THORNY PATH. 267 

charm of bewitching beauty he seemed to gaze at 
the lurid crimson pools oh the ground, and at the 
armed cohorts which marched in front to shed more 
blood and rouse more hatred. 

As Nemesianus withdrew from the window, Ar- 
gutis came into the room. The legate had released 
him ; and when Johanna conducted the faithful fel- 
low to Alexander's bedside, and he saw the youth 
lying pale and with closed eyes, as though death had 
claimed him for his prey, the old man dropped on 
his kneeSy sobbing loudly. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

While Alexander, well nursed by old Argutis 
and Johanna, lay in high fever, raving in his de- 
lirium of Agatha and his brother Philip, and still 
oftener calling for his sister, Melissa was alone in 
her hiding-place. It was spacious enough, indeed, 
for she was concealed in the rooms prepared to 
receive the Exoterics before the mysteries of Se- 
rapis. A whole suite of apartments, sleeping-rooms 
and halls, were devoted to their use, extending all 
across the building from east to west. Some of 
these were square, others round or polygonal, but 
most of them much longer than they were wide. 
Painters and sculptors had everywhere covered the 
walls with pictures in color and in high relief, calcu- 
lated to terrify or bewilder the uninitiated. The 
statues, of which there were many, bore strange 
symbols, the mosaic flooring was covered with 
images intended to excite the fancy and the fears 
of the beholder. 

When Melissa first entered her little sleeping- 
room, darkness had concealed all this from her gaze. 
She had been only too glad to obey the matron's 
bidding and go to rest at once. Euryale had re- 
mained with her some time, sitting on the edge of 
the bed to hear all that had happened to the girl 
during the last few hours, and she had impressed on 



A THORNY PATH. 269 

her how she should conduct herself in case of her 
hiding-place being searched. 

When she presently bade her good-night, Me- 
lissa repeated what the waiting-woman Johanna had 
told her of the life of Jesus Christ; but she ex- 
pressed her interest in the person of the Redeemer 
in such a strange and heathen fashion that Euryale 
only regretted that she could not at once enlighten 
the exhausted girl. With a hearty kiss she left her 
to rest, and Melissa was no sooner alone than sleep 
closed her weary young eyes. 

It was near morning when she fell asleep ; and 
when she awoke, accustomed as she was to early 
hours, she was startled to see how much of the day 
was spent. So she rose hastily, and then perceived 
that the lady Euryale must already have come to 
see her, for she found fresh milk by the bedside, 
and some rolls of manuscript which had not been 
there the day before. Her first thought was for her 
imperiled relatives — her father, her brothers, her 
lover — and she prayed for each, appealing first to 
the manes of her mother, and then to mighty Serapis 
and kindly Isis, who would surely hear her in these 
precincts dedicate to them. 

The danger of those she loved made her forget 
her own, and she vividly pictured to herself what 
might be happening to each, what each one might 
be doing to protect her and save her from the spies 
of the despot, who by this time must have received 
her missive. Still, the doubt whether he might not, 
after all, be magnanimous and forgive her, rose 
again and again to her mind, though everything led 
her to think it impossible. 

During her prayer and in her care for the others 
she had felt reasonably calm ; but at the first thought 
of Csesar a painful agitation took possession of her 



270 



A THORNY path: 



soul, and' to overcome it she began an inspection of 
her spacious hiding-place, where the lady Euryale 
had prepared her to be amazed. And, indeed, it 
was not merely strange, but it filled her heart and 
mind with astonishment and terror. Wherever she 
looked, mystic figures puzzled her; and Melissa 
turned from a picture in relief of beheaded figures 
with their feet in the air, and a representation of 
the damned stewing in great caldrons and fan- 
ning themselves with diabolical irony, only to see 
a painting of a female form over whose writhing 
body boats were sailing, or a four-headed ram, or 
birds with human heads flying away with a mummi- 
fied corpse. On the ceiling, too, there was strange 
imagery ; and when she looked at the floor to rest 
her bewildered fancy, her eyes fell on a troop of 
furies pursuing the wicked, or a pool of fire by 
which horrible monsters kept guard. 

And all these pictures were not stiff and formal 
like Egyptian decorative art, but executed by Greek 
artists with such liveliness and truth that they 
seemed about to speak; and Melissa could have 
fancied many times that they were moving toward 
her from the ceiling or the walls. 

If she remained here long, she thought she must 
go out of her mind ; and yet she was attracted, here 
by a huge furnace on whose metal floor large masses 
of fuel seemed to lie, and there by a pool of water 
with crocodiles, frogs, tortoises, and shells, wrought 
in mosaic. 

Besides these and other similar objects, her cu- 
riosity was aroused by some large chests in which 
book-rolls, strange vessels, and an endless variety 
of raiment of every shape and size were stored, 
from the simple chiton of the common laborer to 
the star-embroidered talar of the adept. 



A THORNY PATH. 



271 



Her protectress had told her that the mystics 
who desired to be admitted to the highest grades 
here passed through fire and water, and had to go 
through many ceremonies in various costumes. She 
had also informed her that the uninitiated who 
desired to enter these rooms had to open three 
doors, each of which, as it was closed, gave rise to 
a violent ringing ; so that she might not venture to 
get away from the room, into which, however, she 
could bar herself. If the danger were pressing, 
there was a door, known only to the initiated, 
which led to the steps and out of the building. 
Her sleeping-place, happily, was not far from a 
window looking to the west, so that she was able 
to refresh her brain after the bewildering impres- 
sions which had crowded on her in the inner 
rooms. 

The paved roadway dividing the Serapeum from 
the stadium was at first fairly crowded ; but the 
chariots, horsemen, and foot-passengers on whose 
heads she looked down from her high window in- 
terested her as little as the wide inclosure of the 
stadium, part of which lay within sight. 

A race, no doubt, was to be held there this 
morning, for slaves were raking the sand smooth, 
and hanging flowers about a dais, which was no 
doubt intended for Caesar. Was it to be her fate to 
see the dreadful man from the place where she was 
hiding from him ? Her heart began to beat faster, 
and at the same time questions crowded on her 
excited brain, each bringing with it fresh anxiety 
for those she loved, of whom, till now, she had been 
thinking with calm reassurance. 

Whither had Alexander fled ? 

Had her father and Philip succeeded in con- 
cealing themselves in the sculptor's work-room ? 



272 



A THORNY PATH. 



Could Diodoros have escaped in time to reach 
the harbor with Polybius and Praxilla ? 

How had Argutis contrived that her letter should 
reach Caesar's hands without too greatly imperiling 
himself? 

She was quite unconscious of any guilt toward 
Caracalla. There had been, indeed, a strong and 
strange attraction which had drawn her to him ; even 
now she was glad to have been of service to him, and 
to have helped him to endure the sufferings laid 
upon him by a cruel fate. But she could never be 
his. Her heart belonged to another, and this she had 
confessed in a letter — perhaps, indeed, too late. If 
he had a heart really capable of love, and had set it 
on her, he would no doubt think it hard that he 
should have bestowed his affections on a girl who 
was already plighted to another, even when she first 
appeared before him as a suppliant, though deeply 
moved by pity ; still, he had certainly no right to 
condemn her conduct. And this was her firm con- 
viction. 

If her refusal roused his ire — if her father's 
prophecy and Philostratus's fears must be verified, 
that his rage would involve many others besides 
herself in ruin, th5n — But here her thought broke 
off with a shudder. 

Then she recalled the. hour when she had been 
ready and willing to be his, to sacrifice love and 
happiness only to soften hi& wild mood and protect 
others from his unbridled rage. Yes, she might 
have been his wife by this time, if he himself had 
not proved to her that she could never gain such 
power over him as would control his sudden fits of 
fury, or obtain mercy for any victim of his cruelty. 
The murder of Vindex and his nephew had been the 
death-blow of this hope. She best knew how se- 



A THORNY PATH. 



273 



riously she had come to the determination to give 
up every selfish claim to future happiness in order 
that she might avert from others the horrors which 
threatened them ; and now, when she knew the his- 
tory of the Divine Lord of the Christians, she told her- 
self that she had acted at that moment in a manner 
well-pleasing to that sublime Teacher. Still, her 
strong common sense assured her that to sacrifice 
the dearest and fondest wish of her heart in vain 
would not have been right and good, but foolish. 

The evil deeds which Caracalla was now pre- 
paring to commit he would have done even if she 
were at his side. Of what small worth would she 
have seemed to him, and to herself ! — When this 
tyranny should be overpast, when he should be 
gone to some other part of his immense empire, if 
those she loved were spared she could be happy — 
ah ! so happy with the man to whom she had given 
her heart — as happy as she would have been miser- 
able if she had become the victim to unceasing ter- 
rors as Caesar's wife. 

Euryale was right, and Fate, to which she had 
appealed, had decided well for her. That, the 
greatest conceivable sacrifice, would have been in 
vain; for the sake of a ruthless tyrant's foul 
desire she would have been guilty of the basest 
breach of faith, have poisoned her lover's heart 
and soul, and have wrecked his whole future life as 
well as her own. Away, then, with foolish doubts ! 
Pythagoras was wise in warning her against tortur- 
ing her heart. The die was cast. She and Cara- 
calla must go on divergent roads. Her duty now 
was Jto fight for her own happiness against any who 
threatened it, and, above all, against the tyrant who 
had compelled her, innocent as she was, to hide like 
a criminal. 

42 



274 



A THORNY PATH. 



She was full of righteous wrath against the san* 
guinary persecutor, and holding her head high she 
went back into her sleeping-room to finish dressing. 
She moved more quickly than usual, for the book- 
rolls which Euryale had laid by her bed while she 
was still asleep attracted her eye with a suggestion 
of promise. Eager to know what their contents 
were, she took them up, drew a stool to the win- 
dow, and tried to read. 

But many voices came up to her from outside, 
and when she looked down into the road she saw 
troops of youths crowding into the stadium. What 
fine fellows they were, as they marched on, talking 
and singing ; and she said to herself that Diodoros 
and Alexander were taller even than most of these, 
and would have been handsome among the hand- 
somest! She amused herself for some time with 
watching them ; but when the last man had entered 
the stadium, and they had formed in companies, she 
again took up the rolls. 

One contained the gospel of Matthew and the 
other that of Luke. 

The first, beginning with the genealogy, gave 
her a string of strange, barbarous names which did 
not attract her ; so she took up the roll of Luke, 
and his simple narrative style at once charmed 
her. There were difficulties in it, no doubt, and she 
skipped sundry unintelligible passages, but the sec- 
ond chapter captivated her attention. It spoke of 
the birth of the great Teacher whom the Christians 
worshiped as their God. Angels had announced to 
the shepherds in the field that great joy should 
come on the whole world, because the Saviour« was 
born ; and this Saviour and Redeemer was no hero, 
no sage, but a child wrapped in swaddling-clothes 
and lying in a manger. 



A THORNY PATH. 



275 



At this she smiled, for she loved little children, 
and had long known no greater pleasure than to 
play with them and help th^. How many de- 
lightful hours did she owe to the grandchildren of 
their neighbor Skopas ! 

And this child, hailed at its birth by a choir of 
angels, had become a God in whom many believed ! 
and the words of the angels' chant were : ** Glory 
to God on high, and on earth peace, good-will toward 
men ! " 

How great and good it sounded ! With eager 
excitement she fastened the rolls together, and on 
her features was depicted impatient longing to put 
an end to an intolerable state of things, as she ex- 
claimed, though there was no one but herself to 
hear : " Ay, peace, salvation, good-will ! Not this 
hatred, this thirst for revenge, this blood, this per- 
secution, and, as their hideous fruit, this terror, 
these horrible, cruel fears — " 

Here she was interrupted by the clatter of arms 
and rapping of hammers which came up from be- 
low. Caesar's Macedonian guard and other infant- 
ry troops were silently coming up in companies 
and vanishing into the side-doors which led to the 
upper tiers of the stadium. What could this mean ? 
Meanwhile carpenters were busy fastening up the 
chief entrance with wooden beams. It looked like 
closing up sluice-gates to hinder the invasion of 
a high tide. But the stadium was already full of 
men. She had seen thousands of youths march in, 
and there they stood in close ranks in the arena 
below her. Besides these, there were now an im- 
mense number of soldiers. They must all get out 
again presently, and what a crush there would be 
in the side exits if the vomitorium were closed ! 
She longed to call down, to warn the carpenters of 



276 



A THORNY PATH. 



the folly of their act. Or was it that the youth of 
the town were to be pent into the stadium to hear 
some new and morej^evere decree, while some of 
the more refractory were secured ? 

It must be so. What a shame ! 

Then came a few vexilla of Numidian troopers at 
a slow pace. At their head, on a particularly high 
horse, rode the legate, a very tall man. He glanced 
up to the side where she was, and Melissa recognized 
the Egyptian Zminis. At this her hand sought the 
place of her heart, for she felt as though it had 
ceased to beat. What ! This wretch, the deadly 
foe of her father and brother, here, at the head of 
the Roman troops ? Something horrible, impossi- 
ble, must be about to happen ! 

The sun was mirrored in the shining coat of his 
horse, and in the lictor's axe he bore, carrying it like 
a commander's staff. He raised it once, twice, and, 
high as she was above him, she could see how sharp 
the contrast was between the yellow whites of his 
eyes and the swarthy color of his face. 

Now, for the third time, the bright steel of the 
axe flashed in the sunshine, and immediately after 
trumpet-calls sounded and were repeated at short 
intervals, which still, to her, seemed intolerably long. 

How Melissa had presence of mind enough to 
count them she knew not, but she did. At the sev- 
enth all was still, and soon after a short blast on 
the tuba rang out from above, below, and from all 
sides of the stadium. Each went like an arrow to 
the heart of the anxious, breathless girl. From the 
moment when she had seen Zminis she had expected 
the worst, but the cry of rage and despair from a 
thousand voices which now split her ear told her 
how far the incredible reality outdid her most hor- 
rible imaginings. 



A THORNY PATH. 



277 



Breathless, and with a throbbing brain, she leaned 
out as far as she could, and neither felt the burn- 
ing sun — which was now beginning to fall on the 
western face of the temple — nor heeded the risk of 
being seen and involving herself and her protect- 
ress in ruin. Trembling like a gazelle in a frosty 
winter's night, she would gladly have withdrawn 
from the window, but she felt as if some spell held 
her there. She longed to shut her ears and eyes, 
but she could not help looking on. Her every in- 
stinct prompted her to shriek for help, but she could 
not utter a sound. 

There she stood, seeing and hearing, and her 
low moaning changed to that laughter which an- 
guish borrows from gladness when it has exhausted 
all forms of expression. At last she sank on her 
knees on the floor, and while she shed tears of pain 
still laughed shrilly, till she understood with sud- 
den horror what was happening. She started vio- 
lently ; a sob convulsed her bosom ; she wept and 
wept, and these tears did her good. 

When, at one in the afternoon, the sun fell full 
on her window, she had not yet found strength to 
move. A flood of bright light, in which whirled 
millions of motes, danced before her eyes ; and as 
her breath sent the atoms flying, it passed through 
her mind that at this very moment the reprobate 
.utterance of a madman's lips was blowing happiness, 
joy, peace, and hope out of the lives of many thou- 
sands — blowing them into nothingness, like the blast 
of a storm. 

Then she commanded herself, for the horrible 
scene before her threatened to stamp itself on her eye 
like the image her father could engrave on an onyx ; 
and she must avoid that, or give up all hope of ever 
being light-hearted again. Hardly an hour since 



278 A THORNY PATH. 

she had seen the arena looking like a basket of 
fresh flowers, full of splendid, youthful men. Then 
the warriors of the Macedonian phalanx had taken 
their places on the long ranks of seats on which she 
looked down, with several cohorts of archers, brown 
Numidians and black Ethiopians, like inquisitive 
spectators of the expected show — but all in full 
armor. At first the youths and men had formed in 
companies, with singing, talk, and laughter, and here 
and there a satirical chant ; but presently there had 
been squabbles with the tQwn-watch, and while the 
younger and more careless still were gay enough, 
whole companies oh the other hand had looked up 
indignantly at the Romans; some had anxiously 
questioned each other's eyes, or stared down in 
sullen dismay at the sand. 

The hot, seething blood of these men — the sons 
of a free city, and accustomed to a life of rapid 
action in hard work and frenzied enjoyment — took 
the delay very much amiss; and when it was ru- 
mored that the doors were being locked, impatience 
and distrust found emphatic utterance. Timid whis- 
tling and other expressions of disapproval had been 
followed by louder demonstrations, for to be locked 
up was intolerable. But the lictors and guards 
took no notice, after removing the member of the 
Museum who had perpetrated the epigram on 
Caesar's mother. This one, who had certainly gone 
too far, was to pay for all, it would seem. 

Then the trumpets sounded, and the most heed- 
less of the troop of youths began to feel acute 
anxiety and alarm. From her high post of observa- 
tion Melissa could see that, although the appear- 
ance of Zminis on the scene had caused a fever of 
agitation, they now broke their serried squares, wan- 
dered about as if undecided what to do, but pre- 



A THORNY PATH. 



279 



pared for the worst, and turned their curly heads 
now to this side and now to that, till the trumpet- 
blast from the seats attracted every eye upward, and 
the butchery began. 

Did the cry, <* Stop, wretches!" really break 
from Melissa's lips, or had she only intended to 
shout it down to the people in the stadium ? She 
did not know ; but as she recollected the long rank 
of Numidians who, quick as lightning, lifted their 
curved bows and sent a shower of arrows down on 
the defenseless lads in the arena, she felt as though 
she had again shrieked out : " Stop ! ** Then it 
seemed as though a storm of wind had torn thou- 
sands of straight boughs with metallic leaves that 
flashed in the sunshine from some huge invisible 
tree, and flung them into the arena ; and, as her 
eye followed their fall, she could have fancied that 
she looked on a corn-field beaten down by a terrific 
hail-storm ; but the boughs and leaves were lances 
and arrows, and each ear of corn cut down was a 
young and promising human being. 

Zminis's preposterous suggestion had been acted 
on. Caracaila was avenged on the youth of Alex- 
andria. 

Not a tongue could wag now in abuse ; every 
pair of young lips which had dared utter a scornful 
cry or purse up to whistle at the sight of Caesar, was 
silenced forever — and, with the few guilty, a hun- 
dred times more who were innocent. She knew 
now why the great gate had been barred with beams, 
and why the troop had entered by the side-doors. 
The scene of the brilliant display had become a lake 
of blood, full of the dead and dying. Death had 
invaded the rows of seats ; instead of laurel wreaths 
and prizes, deadly weapons were showered down 
into the arena. It seemed now as though the sun. 



28o A THORNY PATH. 

with its blinding radiance, were mercifully fain to 
hinder the human eye from looking down on the 
horrible picture. To avoid the sickening sight. Me- 
lissa closed her eyes and dragged herself to her feet 
with an effort, to hide herself she knew not where. 

But again there was a flourish of trumpets and 
loud acclamations, and again an irresistible power 
dragged her to the window. 

A splendid quadriga had stopped at the gate of 
the stadium, surrounded by courtiers and guards. 
It was Caracalla's, for Pandion held the reins. 
Could Caracalla approve of this most horrible 
crime, organized by the wretch Zminis, by appear- 
ing on the scene ; or might it not be that, in his 
wrath at the bloodthirsty zeal of his vile tool, he 
had come to dismiss him ? 

She hoped it was this; and, at any cost, she 
must know the truth as to this question, which was 
not based on mere curiosity. Holding one hand to 
her wildly beating heart, she looked across the blood- 
stained arena to the rows of seats and the dais deco- 
rated for Caesar. There stood Caracalla, with the 
Egyptian at his side, pointing down at the arena 
with his finger. And what was to be seen on the 
spot he indicated was so horrible that she again 
shut her eyes, and this time she even covered them 
with her hands. But she would and must see, and 
once more she looked across ; and the man whose 
assurances she had once believed, that it was only 
his care for the throne and state and the compulsion 
of cruel fate which had ever made him shed blood- 
that man was standing side by side with the vile, 
ruthless spy whose tall figure towered far above his 
master's. His hand lay on the villain's arm, his 
eye rested on the corpse-strewn arena beneath ; 
and now he raised his head, he turned his face. 



A THORNY PATH. 28 1 

whose look of suffering had once moved her soul, 
toward her — and he laughed — she could see every 
feature — laughed so loud, so heartily, so gleefully, 
as she had never before seen him laugh. He laughed 
till his whole body and shoulders shook. Now he 
took his hand from the Egyptian's arm and pointed 
to the dead lying at his feet. 

As she saw that laugh, of which she could not 
hear a sound, Melissa felt as though a hyena had 
yelled in her ear, and, yielding to an irresistible im- 
pulse, she looked down once more at the destruc- 
tion of youthful life and happiness which had been 
wrought in one short hour — at the stream of blood 
after which so many bitter tears must flow. The 
sight indeed cut her to the heart, and yet she was 
thankful for it ; for the first time the reckless cruel- 
ty of that laughing monster was evident in all its 
naked atrocity. Horror, aversion, loathing for that 
man to whom everything but power, cruelty, and cun- 
ning, was as nothing, left no room for fear or pity, 
or even the least shade of self-reproach for having 
aroused in him a desire which she could not gratify. 

She clenched her little fists, and, without vouch- 
safing another glance at the detestable butcher who 
had dared to cast his eyes on her, she withdrew from 
the window and cried out aloud, though startled at 
the sound of her own voice : " The time, the time ! 
It is fulfilled for him this day ! " 

And how her eyes flashed and her bosom heaved 
and fell ! With what a firm step did she pace the 
long suite of rooms, while the conviction was borne 
in on her that this deed of the vile assassin in the 
purple must bring the day of salvation and peace 
nearer — that day of which Andreas dreamed ! As 
in her silent walk she passed the book-rolls which 
the lady Euryale had so quietly laid by her bedside, 



282 A THORNY PATH. 

she took up the glad message of Luke with en^ 
thusiastic excitement, held it on high, and shouted 
the angels* greeting which had impressed itself on 
her memory out of the window, as though she 
longed that Caracalla should hear it—^" Peace on 
earth and good-will toward men ! " 

Then she resumed her walk through the rooms 
of the heathen mystics, repeating to herself all the 
comfortable words she had ever heard from Eury- 
ale and the freedman Andreas. The image of the 
divine Lord, who had come to bestow love on the 
world, and seal his sublime doctrine by sacrificing 
his life, rose up before her soul, and all that the 
Christian Johanna had told her of him made the 
picture clear, till he stood plainly before her, beauti-«. 
ful and gentle, in a halo of love and kindness, and 
yet strong and noble, for the crucified One was a 
heroic Saviour. 

At this she remembered with satisfaction the 
struggle she herself had fought, and her comfort 
when she had decided to sacrifice her own happi- 
ness to save others from sorrow. She now reso- 
lutely grasped the lady Euryale's book-rolls, for 
they contained the key to the inner chambers of 
the wondrous structure into whose forecourt life 
itself and her own intimate experience had led her. 
She was soon sitting with her back to the window, 
and unrolled the gospel of Matthew till she came 
to the first sentence which Euryale had marked for 
her with a red line. 

Melissa was too restless to read straight on ; as 
impatient as a child who finds itself for the first 
time in a garden which its parents have bought, she 
rushed from one tempting passage to another, ap- 
plying each to herself, to those whom she loved, 
or in another sense to the disturber of her peace. 



A THORNY PATH. 283 

With a joyful heart she now believed the promise 
which at first had staggered her, that the Kingdom 
of Heaven was at hand. 

But her eye ran swiftly over the open roll, and 
was attracted by a mark drawing her attention to a 
whole chapter. She there read how Jesus Christ 
had gone up on to a mountain to address the vast 
multitude who followed him. He spoke of the 
kingdom of heaven, and of who those were that 
should be suffered to enter there. First, they were 
the poor in spirit — and she no doubt was one of 
those. Among those who were rich in spirit her 
brother Philip was certainly one of the richest, and 
whither had an acute understanding and restless 
brain led him that they so seldom gave his feelings 
time to make themselves heard ? 

Then the mourners were to be comforted. Oh, 
that she could have called the lady Berenike to 
her side and bid her participate in this promise ! — 
And the meek — well, they might come to power 
perhaps after the downfall of the wretch who had 
flooded the world with blood, and who, of all men 
on earth, was the farthest removed from the spirit 
which gazed at her from this scripture, so mild and 
genial. Of those who hungered and thirsted after 
righteousness she again was one : they should be 
filled, and the lady Euryale and Andreas had al- 
ready loaded the board for her. 

The merciful, she read, should obtain mercy; 
and she, if any one, had a right to regard herself 
as a peacemaker : thus to her was the promise that 
she should be called one of the children of God. 

But at the next verse she drew herself up, and 
her face was radiant with joy, for it seemed to have 
been written expressly for her ; nay, to find it here 
struck her as a marvel of good fortune, for there 



284 



A THORNY PATH. 



stood the words : " Blessed are they which are per- 
secuted for righteousness* sake : for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men 
shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say 
all manner of evil against you." 

All these things had come upon her in these last 
days — though not, indeed, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ and righteousness, but only for the sake of 
those she loved ; yet she would have been ready to 
endure the worst. 

And the hapless victims !n the arena! Might 
not the promised bliss await them too ? Oh, how 
gladly would she have bestowed on them the fair- 
est reward ! And if this should indeed be their lot 
after death, where was the revenge of their blood- 
thirsty murderer ? 

Oh, that her mother were still alive — that she, 
Melissa, had been permitted to share this great 
consolation with her! In a brief aspiration she 
uplifted her soul to the beloved dead, and as she 
further unrolled the manuscript her eye fell on the 
words : " Love yoxir enemies ; bless them that curse 
you, and do good to them that hate you." No, she 
could not do this ; this seemed to her to be too 
much to ask ; even Andreas had not attained to 
this ; and yet it must be good and lovely, if only 
because it helped to cement the peace for which she 
longed more fervently than for any other blessing. 

. Next she read : " For with what judgment ye 
judge, ye shall be judged," and she shuddered as 
she thought of the future fate of the man who had 
by treachery brought murder and death on an in- 
dustrious and flourishing city as a punishment for 
the light words and jests of a few mockers, and the 
disappointment he had suffered from an insignifi- 
cant girl. 



A THORNY PATH. 28$ 

But then, again, she breathed more freely, for 
she read : '* Ask, and it shall be given unto you ; 
seek, and ye shall und ; knock, and it shall be 
opened." Could there be a more precious promise ? 
And to her, she felt, it was already fulfilled ; for her 
trembling finger had, as it were, but just touched 
the door, and, lo ! it stood open before her, and that 
which she had so long sought she had now found. 
But it was quite natural that it should be so, for 
the God of the Christians loved those who turned 
to him as His own children. Here it was written 
why those who asked should receive, and those who 
sought should find : " For what man is there of you 
whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone ? " 

If it were only as a peacemaker, she was already 
a child of Him who had asked this, and she might 
look for none but good gifts from Him. And what 
was commanded immediately after seemed to her 
so simple, so easy to obey, and yet so wise. She 
thought it over a little, and saw that in this precept — 
of which it was said that it wa^ all the law and the 
prophets — there was in fact a rule which, if it were 
obeyed, niust keep all mankind guiltless, and make 
every one happy. These words, she thought, should 
be written over every door and on every heart, as 
the winged sun was placed over every Egyptian tem- 
ple gate, so that no one should ever forget them for 
an instant. She herself would bear them in mind, 
and she repeated them to herself in an undertone, 
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto 
you, even so do unto them." Her eye wandered 
to the window and out to the stadium. How happy 
might the world be under a sovereign who should 
obey that law ! And Caracalla ? — No, she would not 
allow the contentment which filled her to be troubled 
by a thought of him. 



286 A THORNY PATH. 

With a hasty gesture she placed the ivory rod 
which she had found in the middle of the roll so as to 
flatten it out, and her eye fell on the words, " Come 
unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and 
I will give you rest." To her, if to any one, was 
this glorious bidding addressed, for few had a 
heavier burden to bear. But indeed she already 
felt it lighter, after the terrors she had gone through 
on the very verge of despair; and now, even though 
she was still surrounded by dangers, she was far 
from feeling oppressed or terrified. Now her heart 
beat higher with hopeful gladness, and she was full 
of fervent gratitude as she told herself with lively 
and confident assurance that she had found a new 
guide, and, holding His loving and powerful hand, 
could walk in the way in safety. She felt as though 
some beloved hand had given her a vial of precious 
medicine that would cure every disease, when she 
had learned this verse, too, by heart. She would 
never forget the friendly promise and invitation 
that lay in those words. And to Alexander, at least 
— poor, conscience-stricken Alexander — they might 
bring some comfort, if not to her father and Philip, 
since the call of the Son of God was addressed to 
him too. And she looked as happy as. though she 
had heard something to rejoice her heart and soul. 
Her red lips parted once more, showing the two 
white teeth which were never to be seen but when 
she smiled and some real happiness stirred her soul. 

She fancied she was alone, but, even while she was 
reading the words in which the Saviour called to him 
the weary and heavy-laden, the lady Euryale had 
noiselessly opened a secret door leading to Melissa's 
hiding-place, known only to herself and her husband, 
and had come close to her. She now stood watch- 
ing the girl with surprise and astonishment, for she 



A THORNY PATH. 287 

had expected to find her beside herself, desperate, 
and more than ever needing comfort and soothing. 
The unhappy girl must have been drawn to the 
window by the cries of the massacred, and at least 
have glanced at the revolting scene in the stadium. 
She would have thought it more natural if she had 
found Melissa overcome by the horrors she had 
witnessed, half distraught or paralyzed by distress 
and rage. And there sat the young creature, whom 
she knew to be soft-hearted and gentle, smiling and 
with beaming eyes — though those eyes must have 
rested on the most hideous spectacle — looking as 
though the roll in her lap were the first enchanting 
raptures of a lover. The book lying on Melissa's 
knees was the gospel of Matthew, which she herself 
early this morning, while the girl was still sleeping, 
had laid by her side to comfort her and give her 
some insight into the blessings of Christianity. But 
these scriptures, so sacred to Euryale, had seemed to 
count for less than nothing to this heathen girl, the 
sister of Philip the skeptic. 

Euryale loved Melissa, but far dearer to her was 
the book to whose all-important contents the maiden 
seemed to have closed her heart in coldness. 

It was for Melissa's sake that, when the high- 
priest's dwelling was searched by the new magis- 
trate's spies from cellar to garret, she had patiently 
submitted to her husband's hard words. She had 
liked to think that she might bring this girl as a 
pure white lamb into the fold of the Good Shep- 
herd, who to herself was so dear, and through whom 
her saddened life had found new charm, her broken 
heart new joys. A few hours since she had as- 
sured her friend Origen that she had found a young 
Greek who would prove to him that a heathen who 
had gone through the school of suffering with a 



288 A THORNY PATH. 

pure and compassionate heart needed but a sign, a 
word of flame, to recognize at once the beatitude 
of Christianity and long to be baptized. And here 
she discovered the maiden of whom she had such 
fair hopes, with a smile on her lips and beaming 
looks, while so many innocent men were being 
slaughtered, as though this were a joy to her ! 

What had become of the girl's soft, tender heart, 
which but yesterday had been ready for self-sacri- 
fice if. only she might secure the well-being of those 
she loved ? Was she, Euryale, in her dotage, that 
she could be so deceived by a child ? 

Her heart beat faster with disappointment ; and 
yet she would not condemn the sinner unheard. 
So, with a swift impulse she took the roll up from 
Melissa's lap, and her voice was sorrowful rather 
than severe as she exclaimed : 

" I had hoped, my child, that these scriptures 
might prove to you, as to so many before you, a key 
to open the gates of eternal truth. I thought that 
they would comfort you, and teach you to love the 
sublime Being whose exemplary life and pathetic 
death are no longer unknown to you, since Johanna 
told you the tale. Nay, I believed that they might 
presently arouse in you the desire to join us who — '* 

But here she stopped, for Melissa had fallen on 
her neck, and while Euryale, much amazed, tried to 
release herself from her embrace, the girl cried out, 
half laughing and half in tears : 

" It has all come about as you expected ! I will 
live and die faithful to that sublime Saviour, whom 
I love. I am one of you — yes, mother, now — even 
before the baptism I long for. For I was weary 
and heavy-laden above any, and the word of the 
Lord hath refreshed me. This book has taught 
me that there is but one path to true happiness, and 



A THORNY PATH. 289 

it is that which is shown us by Jesus Christ. O 
lady, how much fairer would our life on earth be if 
what is written here concerning blessedness were 
stamped on every heart ! I feel as though in this 
hour I had been born again. I do not know my- 
self ; and how is it possible that a poor child of man, 
in such fearful straits and peril as I, and after such 
a scene of horror, should feel so thankful and so full 
of the purest gladness ? " 

The matron clasped her closely in her arms, and 
her tears bedewed the girl's face while she kissed 
her again and again; and the cheerfulness which 
had just now hurt her so deeply she now regarded 
as a beautiful miracle. 

Her time was limited, for she was watched ; and 
she had seized the half-hour during which the town- 
guard had been mustered in the square to report 
progress. So Melissa had to be brief, and in a few 
hasty words she told her friend ail that she had 
seen and heard from her high window, and how the 
gospel of Matthew had been to her glad tidings; 
how it had given her comfort and filled her soul 
with infinite happiness in this the most terrible 
hour of her life. At this, Euryale also forgot the 
horrors which surrounded them, till Melissa called 
her back to the dreadful present ; for, with bowed 
head and in deep anxiety, she desired to know 
whether her friend knew anything of her relations 
and Diodoros. 

The matron had a painful struggle with her- 
self. It grieved her to inflict anxiety on Melis- 
sa's heart, as she stood before her eyes like one 
of the maidens robed in white and going to be 
baptized, to whom presents were given on the fes- 
tive occasion, and who were carefully sheltered 
from all that could disturb them and destroy the 

43 



290 



A THORNY PATH. 



silent, holy joy of their souls. And yet the question 
must be answered : so she said that of the other 
two she knew nothing, any more than of Berenike 
and Diodoros, but that of Philip she had bad news. 
He was a noble man, and, notwithstanding his errors 
in the search after truth, well worthy of pity. At 
this, Melissa in great alarm begged to be told what 
had happened to her brother, and the lady Euryale 
confessed that he no longer walked among the liv- 
ing, but she did not relate the manner 'of his death ; 
and she bade the weeping girl to seek for comfort 
from the Friend of all who grieve and whom she 
now knew; but to keep herself prepared for the 
worst, in full assurance that none are tried beyond 
what they are able to bear, for that the fury of the 
bloodthirsty tyrant hung like a black cloud over 
Alexandria and its inhabitants. She herself, merely 
by coming to Melissa, exposed herself to great 
danger, and she could not see her again till the 
morrow. To Melissa's inquiry as to whether it was 
her refusal to be his which had brought such a fear- 
ful fate on the innocent youth of Alexandria, 
Euryale could reply in the negative; for she had 
heard from her husband that it was a foul epigram 
written by a pupil of the Museum which had led to 
Caesar's outbreak of rage. 

With a few soothing words she pointed to a 
basket of food which she had brought with her, 
showed the girl once more the secret door, and em- 
braced her at parting as fondly as though Heaven 
had restored to her in Melissa the daughter she had 
lost. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

Melissa was once more alone. 

She now knew that Phihp walked no longer 
among the living. He must have fallen a victim to 
the fury of the monster, but the thought that he 
might have been slain for her sake left her mind no 
peace. 

She felt that with the death of this youth — so 
gifted, and so dear to her — a corner-stone had been 
torn from the paternal house. 

In the loving circle that surrounded her, death 
had made another gap which yawned before her, 
dismal and void. 

One storm more, and what was left standing 
would fall with the rest. 

Her tears flowed fast, and the torturing thought 
that the emperor had slain her brother as a punish- 
ment for his sister's flight pierced her to the heart. 

Now she belonged indeed to the afflicted and 
oppressed ; and as yesterday, in the trouble of her 
soul, she had called upon Jesus Christ, though she 
scarcely knew of Him then, so now she lifted up 
her heart to Him who had become her friend, pray- 
ing to Him to remember His promise of comfort 
when she canw* to Him weary and heavy-laden. 

And while she tried to realize the nature of the 
Saviour who had laid down His life for others, she 
remembered all she had dared for her father and 



292 



A THORNY PATH. 



brothers, and what fate had been her*s during the 
time since ; and she felt she might acknowledge to 
herself that even if Philip had met his death because 
of Caracalla's anger toward her, at any rate she would 
never have approached Caesar had she not wanted 
to save her father and brothers. She had never 
glossed over any wrong-doing of her own; but 
her open and truthful nature was just as little 
inclined to the torment of self-reproach when she 
was not absolutely certain of having committed a 
fault. 

In this case she was not quite sure of herself; 
but she now remembered a saying of Euryale and 
Andreas which she had not understood before. 
Jesus Christ, it said, had taken upon Himself the sins 
of the world. If she understood its meaning aright, 
the merciful Lord would surely forgive her a sin 
which she had committed unwittingly and in no wise 
for her own advantage. Her prayer grew more and 
more to be a discourse with her new-found friend ; 
and, as she finished, she felt absolutely sure that He 
at least understood her and was not angry with 
her. This reassured her, but her cheerfulness had 
fled, and she could read no more. 

Deeply troubled, and more and more distressed 
as time went on by new disturbing thoughts, she 
hurriedly paced from side to side of the long, nar- 
row chamber in the gathering darkness. The re- 
volting images around her began to affect her un- 
bearably once more. Near her chamber, to the 
west, lay the race-course with its horrible scenes ; so 
she turned to the eastern end that looked out upon 
the street of Hermes, where the sight <Jould scarcely 
be so terrible as from the windows at the opposite 
end. But she was mistaken; for, looking down 
upon the pavement, she perceived that this, too, swam 



A THORNY PATH. 



293 



with blood, and that the ground was covered with 
corpses. 

Seized with a sudden horror, she flew back into 
the middle of the long room. There she remained 
standing, for the scene of slaughter in the west was 
still more appalling than that from which she had 
just fled. She could not help wondering who could 
here have fallen a victim to the tyrant after he 
had swept all the youth of the city off the face of 
the earth. . 

The evening sun cast long shafts of golden 
light across the race-course and in at the western 
window, and Melissa knew how quickly the night 
fell in Alexandria. If she wished to find out who 
they were who had been sacrificed to the fury of the 
tyrant, it must be done at once, for the immense 
building of the temple already cast long shadows. 
Determined to force herself to look out, she walked 
quickly to the eastern window and gazed below. 
But it was some moments before she had the forti- 
tude to distinguish one form from another; they 
melted before her reluctant eyes into one repulsive 
mass. 

At last she succeeded in looking more calmly 
and critically. 

Not heaped on one another as on the race- 
course, hundreds of Caracalla's victims lay scattered 
separately over the open square as far as the en- 
trance to the street of Hermes. Here lay an old 
man with a thick beard, probably a Syrian or a Jew ; 
there, his dress betraying him, a seaman ; and far- 
ther on — no, she could not be mistaken — the youth- 
ful corpse that lay so motionless just beneath the 
window was that of Myrtilos, a friend of Philip, 
and, like him, a member of the Museum. 

In a fresh fit of terror she was going to flee 



294 



A THORNY PATH. 



again into her dreadful hiding-place, when she 
caught sight of a figure leaning against the basin 
of the beautiful marble fountain just in front of the 
eastern side-door of the Serapeum, and immediately 
below her. The figure moved, and could therefore 
only be wounded, not dead ; and round the head was 
bound a white cloth, reminding her of her beloved, 
and thereby attracting her attention. The youth 
moved again, turning his face upward, and with a 
low cry she leaned farther forward and gazed and 
gazed, unmindful of the danger of being seen and 
falling a victim to the tyrant's fury. The wounded, 
living man — there, he had moved again — was no 
other than Diodoros, her lover ! 

Till the last glimmer of light disappeared she 
stood at the window with bated breath, and eyes 
fixed upon him. No faintest movement of his 
escaped her, and at each one, trembling with awak- 
ening hope, she thanked Heaven and prayed for his 
rescue. At length the growing darkness hid him 
from her sight. With every instant the night deep- 
ened, and without thinking, without stopping to re- 
flect — driven on by one absorbing thought — she 
felt her way back to her couch, beside which stood 
the lamp and fire-stick, and lighted the wick ; then, 
inspired with new courage at the thought of rescuing 
her lover from death, she considered for a moment 
what had best be done. 

It was easy for her to get out. She had a little 
money with her ; on her peplos she wore a clasp 
that had once belonged to her mother, with two 
gems in it from her father's hand, and on her round- 
ed arm a golden circlet. With these she could 
buy help. The only thing now was to disguise her- 
self. 

On the great, smoke-blackened metal plate over 



A THORNY PATH. 



295 



which those mystics passed who had to walk through 
fire, there lay plenty of charcoal, and yonder hung 
robes of every description. The next moment she had 
thrown off her own, in order to blacken her glisten- 
ing white limbs and her face with soot. Among 
the sewing materials which the lady Euryale had laid 
beside the scrolls was a pair of scissors. These the 
girl seized, and with quick, remorseless hand cut 
off the long, thick locks that were her brother's 
and her lover's delight. Then she chose out a 
chiton, which, reaching only to her knees, gave her 
the appearance of a boy. Her breath came fast 
and her hands trembled, but she was already on her 
way to the secret door through which she should 
flee from this place of horror, when she came to a 
standstill, shaking her head gently. She had looked 
around her, and the wild disorder she was leaving 
behind her in the little room went against her wom- 
anly feelings. But though this feeling would not in 
itself have kept her back, it warned her to steady 
her mind before leaving the refuge her friend had 
accorded to her. Thoughtful, and accustomed to 
have regard for others, she realized at once how 
dangerous it might prove to Euryale if these un- 
mistakable traces of her presence there should be 
discovered by an enemy. The kindness of her 
motherly fri.end should not brmg misfortune upon 
her. With active presence of mind she gathered 
up her garments from the floor, swept the long 
locks of hair together, and threw them all, with the 
sewing and the basket that had contained the food, 
into the stove on the hearth, and set them alight. 
The scissors she took with her as a weapon in case 
of need. 

Then, laying the books of the gospels beside the 
other manuscripts, and casting a last look round to 



296 A THORNY PATH. 

assure herself, that every sign of her presence had 
been destroyed, she addressed one more prayer to 
the tender Comforter of the afflicted, who has 
promised to save those that are in danger. 

She then opened the secret door. 

With a beating heart, and yet far more con- 
scious of the desire to save her lover while there 
was yet time than of the danger into which she was 
rushing headlong, she flitted down the hidden stair- 
case as lightly as a child at play. So much time 
had been lost in clearing the room — and yet she 
could not have left it so ! 

She had not forgotten where to press, so that 
the heavy stone which closed the entrance should 
move aside ; but as she sprang from the last step 
her lamp had blown out, and blackest darkness con- 
cealed th« surface of the smooth granite wall which 
lay between her and the street. 

What if, when she got outside, she should be seen 
by the lictors or spies ? 

At this thought fear overcame her for the first 
time. As she felt about the door her hands trem- 
bled and beads of perspiration stood upon her brow. 
But she must go to her wounded lover ! When 
any one was bleeding to death every moment might 
bring the terrible " too late." It meant Diodoros's 
death if she did not succeed in opening the granite 
slab. 

She took her hands from the stone and forced 
herself, with the whole strength of. her will, to be 
calm. 

Where had been the place by pressing which the 
granite might be moved ? 

It must have been high up on the right side. 
She carefully followed with her fingers the groove 
in which the stone lay, and having recalled its 



A THORNY PATH. 



297 



shape by her sense of touch, she began her search 
anew. Suddenly she felt something beneath her 
finger-tips that was colder than the stone. She had 
found the metal bolt! With a deep breath, and 
without stopping to think of what might be before 
her, she pressed the spring; the slab turned — one 
step — and she was in the street between the race- 
course and the Serapeum. 

All was still around her. Not a sound was to be 
heard except from the square to the north of the 
temple, where all who carried arms had gathered 
together to enjoy the wine which flowed in streams 
as a mark of the emperor's approbation, and from 
the inner circle of the race-course voices were audi- 
ble. Of the citizens not one dared show himself in 
the streets, although the butchery had ceased at 
sundown. All who did not carry the imperial arms 
had shut themselves up in their houses, and the 
streets and squares were deserted since the soldiers 
had assembled in front of the Serapeum. 

No one noticed Melissa. The dangers that 
threatened her from afar troubled her but little. 
She only knew that she must go on — go on as fast 
as her feet would carry her, if she were to reach her 
loved one in time. 

Skirting the south side of the temple, in order 
to get to the fountain, her chief thought was to 
keep in its shadow. The moon had not yet risen, 
and they had forgotten to light either the pitch- 
pans or the torches which usually burned in front 
of the south fagade of the temple. They had been 
too busy with other matters to-day, and now they 
needed all hands in heaping the bodies together. 
The men whose voices sounded across to her from 
the race-course had already begun the work. On — 
she must hurry on ! 



298 A THORNY PATH. 

But it was not so easy as last night. Her light 
sandals were wet through, and there was ever a 
fresh impediment in her way. She knew what it 
was that had wetted her foot — blood — noble, human 
blood — and every obstacle against which she stum- 
bled was a human body. But she would not let her- 
self dwell upon it, and hurried on as though they 
were but water and stones, ever seeing before her 
the image of the wounded youth who leaned 
against the basin. 

Thus she reached the east side of the temple. 
Already she could hear the splashing of the fount- 
ain, she saw the marble gleaming through the dark- 
ness, and began seeking for the spot where she 
had seen her lover. She suddenly stopped short ; 
at the same time as herself, lights faint and bright 
were coming along from the south, from the en- 
trance of the street that led to Rhakotis, and down 
to the water. She was in the middle of the street, 
without a possibility of concealing herself except in 
one of the niches of the Serapeum. 

Should she abandon him ? She must go on, and 
to seek protection in the outer wall of the temple 
meant turning back. So she stood still and held 
her breath as she watched the advancing lights. 

Now they stopped. She heard the rattle of arms 
and men's voices. The lantern-bearers were being 
detained by the watch. They were the first soldiers 
she had seen, the others being engaged in drinking, 
or in the work on the race-course. Would the 
soldiers find her, too ? But, no ! They moved on, 
the torch-bearers in front, toward the street of 
Hermes. 

Who were those people who went wandering 
about among the slain, turning first to this side 
and then to that, as if searching for something ? 



A THORNY PATH. 



299 



They could not be robbing the deaxi, or the watch 
would have seized them. 

Now they came quite close to her, and she 
trembled with fright, for one of them was a sol- 
dier. The light of the lantern shone upon his 
armor. He went before a man and two lads who 
were following a laden ass, and in one of them Me- 
lissa recognized with beating heart a garden slave 
of Polybius, who had often done her a service. 

And now she took courage to look more closely 
at the man — and it was — yes, even in the peasant's 
clothes he wore he could not deceive her quick 
eyes — it was Andreas I 

She felt that every breath that came from her 
young bosom must be a prayer of thanksgiving; 
nor was it long before the freedman recognized 
Melissa in the light-footed black boy who seemed to 
spring from the earth in order to show them the way, 
and he, too, felt as if a miracle had been wrought. 

Like fair flowers that spring up round a scaf- 
fold over which the hungry ravens croak and 
hover, so here, in the midst of death and horror, 
joy and hope began to blossom in thankful hearts. 
Diodoros lived ! No word — only a fleeting press- 
ure of the hand and a quick look passed between 
the elderly man and the maiden — who looked like 
a boy scarcely passed his school-days — to show what 
they felt as they knelt beside the wounded youth 
and bound up the deep gash in his shoulder dealt 
by the sword that had felled him. 

A little while afterward, Andreas drew from the 
basket which the ass carried, and from which he 
had already taken bandages and medicine, a light 
litter of matting. He then lifted Melissa on to 
the back of the beast of burden, and they all 
moved onward. 



300 



A THORNY PATH. 



The sights that surrounded them as long as they 
were near the Serapeum forced her to close her 
eyes, especially when the ass had to walk round 
some obstruction, or when it and its guide waded 
through slimy pools. She could not forget that 
they were red, nor whence they came ; and this ride 
brought her moments in which she thought to ex- 
pire of shuddering horror and sorrow and wrath. 

Not till they reached a quiet lane in Rhakotis, 
where they could advance without let or hindrance, 
did she open her eyes. But a strange, heavy pain 
oppressed her that she had never felt before, and 
her head burned so that she could scarcely see 
Andreas and the two slaves, who, strong in the joy 
of knowing that their young lord was alive, carried 
Diodoros steadily along in the litter. The soldier — 
it was the centurion Martialis, who had been ban- 
ished to the Pontus — ^still accompanied them, but 
Melissa's aching head pained her so much that she 
did not think of asking who he was or why he was 
with them. 

Once or twice she felt impelled to ask whither 
they were taking her, but she had not the power to 
raise her voice. Wh^n Andreas came to her side 
and pointed to the centurion, saying that without 
him he would never have succeeded in saving her 
beloved, she heard it only as a hollow murmur, with- 
out any consciousness of its meaning. Indeed, she 
wished rather that the freedman would keep silent 
when he began explaining his opportune arrival at 
the fountain, which must seem such a miracle to 
her. 

The slave-brand on his arm had enabled him to 
penetrate into the house of Seleukus, where he 
hoped to obtain news of her. There Johanna had 
led him to Alexander, and with the Aurelians he 



A THORNY PATH. 



301 



had found the centurion and the slave Argutis. 
Argutis had just returned from the lady Euryale, 
and swore that he had seen the wounded Diodoros. 
Andreas had then declared his intention of bringing 
the son of his former master to a place of safety, 
and the centurion had been prevailed upon by the 
young tribunes to open a way for the freedman 
through the sentinels. The gardeners of Polybius, 
with their ass, had been detained in an inn on this 
side of Lake Mareotis by the closing of the harbor, 
and Andreas had taken the precaution of making 
use of them. Had it not been for the centurion, 
who was known to the other soldiers, the watch 
would never have allowed the freedman to get so 
far as the fountain ; Andreas therefore begged Me- 
lissa to thank their preserver. But his words fell 
upon her ear unnoticed, and when the strange sol- 
dier left her to devote himself again to Diodoros 
she breathed more freely, for his rapidly spoken 
words hurt her. 

If he would only not come again — only not 
speak to her ! 

She had even ceased to look for her lover. Her 
one desire was to see and hear nothing. When she 
did force herself to raise her heavy, throbbing lids, 
she noticed that they were passing poor-looking 
houses which she never remembered seeing before. 
She fancied, however, from the damp wind that blew 
in her face and relieved her burning head, that they 
must be nearing the lake or the sea. Surely that 
was a fishing-net hanging yonder on the fence round 
a hut on which the light of the lantern fell. But 
perhaps it was something quite different, for the 
images" that passed before her heavy eyes began to 
mingle confusedly, to repeat themselves, and be 
surroundtd by a ring of rambow colors. Her head 



302 



A THORNY PATH. 



had grown so heavy that her mind had lost all sense 
of hope or fear ; only her thoughts stirred faintly as 
the procession moved on and on through the dark- 
ness, without a pause for rest. 

When they had passed the last of the huts she 
managed to look upward. 

The evening star stood out clear against the 
sky, and she seemed to see the other stars revolving 
quickly round it. 

Her mouth was painful and parched, and more 
than once she had been seized with giddiness, which 
forced her to hold tightly to the saddle. 

Now they stopped beside a large piece of water, 
and she felt strangely well and light of heart. That 
must be the dear, familiar lake. And there stood 
Agatha waving to her, and at her side the lady Eu- 
ryale under the spreading shade of a mighty palm. 
Bright sunshine flooded them both, and yet it was 
the night ; for there was the evening star beaming 
down upon her. 

How could that be ? 

Yet, when she tried to understand it all, her 
head pained her so, and she turned so giddy, that 
she clutched the neck of the ass to save herself from 
falling. 

When she raised herself again she saw a large 
boat, out of which several people came to meet them, 
the foremost of them a tall man in a long, white gar- 
ment. That was no dream, she was quite certain. 
And yet — why did the lantern which one of them 
held aloft burn her face so much and not his ? Oh, 
how it burned ! 

Everything turned in a circle round her, and 
grew dark before her eyes. 

But not for long ; suddenly it became light as 
day, and she heard a deep and friendly voice calling 



A THORNY PATH. 



303 



her by name. She answered without fear, " Here am 
I/* and saw before her a stranger in a long, white 
robe, of lofty yet gentle aspect, just as she had imag- 
ined the crucified Saviour of the Christians, and in 
her ear sounded the loving message with which he 
bids the weary and heavy-laden come to him that 
he may give them rest. 

How gentle, how consoling, and how full of gra- 
cious promise were the words, and how gladly would 
she do his bidding ! " Here am I ! " she cried again, 
and saw the arms of the white-robed man stretched 
out to receive her. She staggered toward him, and 
felt a firm and manly hand clasp hers, and then rest 
in blessing on her throbbing brow. All grew dark 
again before her, and she saw and heard no more. 

Andreas had lifted her from the ass and sup- 
ported her, while the two Christians thanked the 
soldier for his timely aid. 

Having assured them that he had had no thought 
of helping them, but only of obeying his superior 
officers, he disappeared into the night, and the 
freedman lifted Melissa in his strong arms and car- 
ried her down to Zeno's boat, which was waiting for 
them. 

" Her mind wanders," said the freedman, with a 
loving look at the precious burden in his arms. 
" Her spirit is strong, but the shocks she has sus- 
tained this day have been too much for her. * Thou 
wilt give me rest,' were her last words before losing 
consciousness. Can she have been thinking of the 
promise of the Saviour ? " 

" If not," answered the deep, musical voice of 
Zeno, " we will show her Him who called the little 
children to Him, and the weary and heavy-laden. 
She belongs to them, and she will see that the Lord 
fulfills what He so lovingly promises." 



304 



A THORNY PATH. 



" One of Christ's sayings, and repeated by Paul 
in his letter to the Galatians, has taken great hold 
upon her,*' added Andreas, "and I think that in 
these days of terror, for her, too, the fullness of time 
has come." 

As he spoke he stepped on to the plank which 
led to the boat from the shore: Diodoros had 
already been placed on board. When Andreas laid 
the girl on the cushioned seat in the little cabin, he 
exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, " Now we are safe ! " 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

Caracalla's evening meal was ended, and for 
years past his friends had never seen the gloomy 
monarch in so mad a mood. The high-priest of 
Serapis, with Dio Cassius the senator, and a few 
others of his suite, had not indeed appeared at table ; 
but the priest of Alexander, the prefect Macrinus, 
Tiis favorites Theocritus, Pandion, Antigonus, and 
others of their kidney, had crowded round him, had 
drunk to his health, and wished him joy of his glo- 
rious revenge. 

Everything which legend or history had recorded 
of similar deeds was compared with this day's work, 
and it was agreed that it transcended them all. 
This delighted the half-drunken monarch. To-day, 
he declared with flashing eyes, and not till to-day, 
he had dared to be entirely what Fate had called 
him to be — at once the judge and the executioner 
of an accursed and degenerate race. As Titus had 
been named "the Good," so he would be called 
" the Terrible." And this day had secured him that 
grand name, so pleasing to his inmost heart. 

" Hail to the benevolent sovereign who would 
fain be terrible ! " cried Theocritus, raising his cup ; 
and the rest of the guests echoed him. 

Then the number of the slain was discussed. No 
one could estimate it exactly. Zminis, the only 
man who could have seen everything, had not ap- 

44 



3o6 A THORNY PATH. 

peared. Fifty, sixty, seventy thousand Alexan- 
drians were supposed to have suffered death ; Ma- 
crinus, however, asserted that there must have been 
more than a hundred thousand, and Caracalla re- 
warded him for his statement by exclaiming loudly : 
" Splendid ! grand ! Hardly comprehensible by the 
vulgar mind ! But, even so, it is not the end of 
what I mean to give them. To-day I have racked 
their limbs ; but I have yet to strike them to the 
heart, as they have stricken me ! " 

He ceased, and after a short pause repeated un- 
hesitatingly, and as though by a sudden impulse, 
the lines with which Euripides ends several of his 
tragedies : 

" Jove in high heaven dispenses various fates ; 
And now the gods shower blessings which our hope 
Dared not aspire to, now control the ills 
We deemed inevitable. Thus the god 
To these hath given an end we never thought." * 

And this was the end of the revolting scene, 
for, as he spoke, Caesar pushed away his cup and sat 
staring into vacancy, so pale that his physician, fore- 
seeing a fresh attack, brought out his medicine vial. 

The praetorian prefect gave a signal to the rest 
that they should not notice the change in their im- 
perial host, and he did his best to keep the conver- 
sation going, till Caracalla, after a long pause, wiped 
his brow and exclaimed hoarsely : " What has be- 
come of the Egyptian ? He was to bring in the 
living prisoners — the living, I say ! Let him bring 
me them/' 

He struck the table by his couch violently with 
his fist ; and then, as if the clatter of the metal 
vessels on it had brought him to himself, he 

* Potter's translation. 



A THORNY PATH. 



307 



added, meditatively : " A hundred thousand ! If 
they burned their dead here, it would take a forest 
to reduce them to ashes." 

" This day will cost him dear enough as it is," 
the high-priest of Alexander whispered; he, as 
idiologos, having to deposit the tribute from the 
temples and their estates in the imperial treasury. 
He addressed his neighbor, old Julius Paulinus, 
who replied: 

" Charon is doing the best business to-day. A 
hundred thousand obolus in a few hours. If Ta- 
rautas reigns over us much longer, I will farm his 
ferry ! " 

During this whispered dialogue Theocritus the 
favorite was assuring Caesar in a loud voice that the 
possessions of the victims would suffice for any 
form of interment, and an ample number of thank- 
offerings into the bargain. 

** An offering! " echoed Caracalla, and he pointed 
to a short sword which lay beside him on the couch. 
" That helped in the work. My father wielded it 
in many a fight, and I have not let it rust. Still, I 
doubt whether in my hands and his together it ever 
before yesterday slaughtered a hundred thousand." 

He looked round for the high-priest of Serapis, 
and after seeking him in vain among the guests, he 
exclaimed : 

"The revered Timotheus withdraws his coun- 
tenance from us to-day. Yet it was to his god that 
I dedijcated the work of vengeance. He laments 
the Rss of worshipers to great Serapis, as you, Ver- 
tinus" — and he turned to the idiologos — "regret 
the slain tax-payers. Well, you are thinking of my 
loss or gain, and that I can not but praise. Your 
colleague in the service of Serapis has nothing to 
care for but the honor of his god ; but he does not 



3o8 



A THORNY PATH. 



succeed in rising to the occasion. Poor wretch ! I 
will give him a lesson. Here Epagathos, and you, 
Claudius — go at once to Timotheus; carry him 
this sword. I devote it to his god. It is to be 
preserved in his holy of holies, in memory of the 
greatest act of vengeance ever known. If Timo- 
theus should refuse the gift — But no, he has sense 
— he knows me ! " 

He paused, and turned to look at Macfinus, who 
had risen to speak to some officials and soldiers who 
had entered the room. They brought the news that 
the Parthian envoys had broken off all negotiations, 
and had left the city in the afternoon. They would 
enter into no alliance, and were prepared to meet 
the Roman army. 

Macrinus repeated this to Caesar with a shrug of 
his shoulders, but he withheld the remark added by 
the venerable elder.of the ambassadors, that they 
did not fear a foe who by so vile a deed had in- 
curred the wrath of the gods. 

" Then it is war with the Parthians ! " cried Cara- 
calla, and his eyes flashed. " My breast-plated fa- 
vorites will rejoice." 

But then he looked grave, and inquired : " They 
are leaving the town, you say ? But are they birds ? 
'J'he gates and harbor are closed." 

"A small Phoenician vessel stole out just before 
sundown between our guard-ships," was the reply. 

" Curse it ! " broke from Caesar's lips in a loud 
voice, and, after a brief dialogue in an undertone 
with the prefect, he desired to have papyru^and 
writing materials brought to him. He himself must 
inform the senate of what had occurred, and he did 
so in a few words. 

He did not know the number of the slain, and 
he did not think it worth while to make a rough 



A THORNY PATH. 



309 



estimate. All the Alexandrians, he said, had in 
fact merited death. A swift trireme was to carry 
the letter to Ostia at daybreak. 

He did not, indeed, ask the opinion of the senate, 
and yet he felt that it would be better that news of 
the day's events should reach the curia under his 
own hand than through the distorting medium of 
rumor. 

Nor did Macrinus impress on him, as usual, that 
he should give his dispatch a respectful form. This 
crime, if anything, might help him to the fulfillment 
of the Magian's prophecy. 

As Caesar was rolling up his missive, the long- 
expected Zminis came into the room. He had at- 
tired himself splendidly, and bore the insignia of his 
new office. He humbly begged to be pardoned for 
his long delay. He had had to make his outer man 
fit to appear among Caesar's guests, for — as he 
boastfully explained — he himself had waded in 
blood, and in the court-yard of the Museum the 
red life- juice of the Alexandrians had reached above 
his horse's knees. The number of the dead, he de- 
clared with sickening pride, was above a hundred 
thousand, as estimated by the prefect. 

" Then we will call it eleven myriad," Caracalla 
broke in. " Now, we have had enough of the dead. 
Bring in the living." 

" Whom ? " asked the Egyptian, in surprise. 

Hereupon Caesar's eyelids began to quiver, and 
in a threatening tone he reminded his bloody- 
handed tool of those whom he had ordered him to 
take alive. Still Zminis was silent, and Caesar furi- 
ously shrieked his demand as to whether by his 
blundering Heron's daughter had escaped ; whether 
he could not produce the gem-cutter and his son. 

The blood-stained butcher then perceived that 



3IO 



A THORNY PATH. 



Caesar's murderous sword might be turned against 
him also. Still, he was prepared to defend him- 
self by every means in his power. His brain was 
inventive, and, seeing that the fault for which 
he would least easily be forgiven was the failure 
to capture Melissa, he tried to screen himself by 
a lie. Relying on an incident which he himself 
had witnessed, he began : " I felt certain of secur- 
ing the gem-cutter's pretty daughter, for my men 
had surrounded his house. But it had come to the 
ears of these Alexandrian scoundrels that a son of 
Heron's, a painter, and his sister, had betrayed their 
fellow-citizens and excited your wrath. It was to 
them that they ascribed the punishment which I 
executed upon them in your name. This rabble 
have no notion of reflection ; before we could hinder 
them they had rushed on the innocent dwelling. 
They flung fire-brands into it, burned it, and tore it 
down. Any one who was within perished, and thus 
the daughter of Heron died. That is, unfortunately, 
proved. I can take the old man and his son to- 
morrow. To-day I have had so much to do that 
there has not been time to bind the sheaves. It is 
said that they had escaped before the mob rushed 
on the house." 

" And the gem-cutter's daughter ? " asked Cara- 
calla, in a trembling voice. " You are sure she was 
burned in the building ? " 

" As sure as that I have zealously endeavored 
to let the Alexandrians feel your avenging hand," 
replied the Egyptian resolutely, and with a bold 
face he confirmed his lie. " I have here the jewel 
she wore on her arm. It was found on the charred 
body in the cellar. Adventus, your chamberlain, 
says that Melissa received it yesterday as a gift 
from you. Here it is." 



A THORNY PATH. 



311 



And he handed Caracalla the serpent-shaped 
bracelet which Caesar had sent to his sweetheart 
before setting out for the Circus. The fire had dam- 
aged it, but there was no mistaking it. It had been 
found beneath the ruins on a human arm, and 
Zminis had only learned from the chamberlain, to 
whom he had shown it, that it had belonged to the 
daughter of Heron. 

" Even the features of the corpse," Zminis 
added, '** were still recognizable." 

" The corpse ! " Caesar echoed gloomily. " And 
it was the Alexandrians, you say, who destroyed 
the house ? " 

" Yes, my lord ; a raging mob, and mingled with 
them men of every race — Jews, Greeks, Syrians, 
what not. Most of them had lost a father, a son, 
or a brother, sent to Hades by your vengeance. 
Their wildest curses were for Alexander, the paint- 
er, who in fact had played the spy for you. But 
the Macedonian phalanx arrived at the right mo- 
ment. They killed most of them and took some 
prisoners. You can see them yourself in the morn- 
ing. As regards the wife of Seleukus — " 

" Well," exclaimed Caesar, and his eye brightened 
again. 

" She fell a victim to the clumsiness of the prae- 
torians." 

" Indeed ! " interrupted the legate Quintus Fla- 
vius Nobilior, who had granted Alexander's life to 
the prayer of the twins Aurelius ; and Macrinus also 
forbade any insulting observations as to the blame- 
less troops whom he had the honor to command. 

But the Egyptian was not to be checked ; he 
went on eagerly : " Pardon, my lords. It is per- 
fectly certain, nevertheless, that it was a praetorian 
— his name is Rufus, and he belongs to the second 



312 



A THORNY PATH. 



cohort — who pierced the lady Berenike with his 
spear." 

Flavius here begged to be allowed to speak, and 
reported how Berenike had sought and found her 
end. And he did so as though he were narrating 
the death of a heroine, but he added, in a tone of 
disapproval : " Unhappily, the misguided woman 
died with a curse on you, great Caesar, on her trea- 
sonable lips." 

"And this female hero finds her Homer in you ! " 
cried Caesar. " We will speak together again, my 
Quintus." 

He raised a brimming cup to his lips and 
emptied it at a draught; then, setting it on the 
table with such violence that it rang, he exclaimed : 
" Then you have brought me none of those whom I 
commanded you to capture ? Even the feeble girl 
who had not quitted her father's house you allowed 
to be murdered by those coarse monsters! And 
you think 1 shall look on you with favor ? By 
this time to-morrow the gem-cutter and his son 
Alexander are here before me, or by the head of 
my divine father you go to the wild beasts in the 
Circus." 

"They will not eat such as he," observed old 
Julius Paulinus, and Caesar nodded approvingly. 
The Egyptian shuddered, for this imperial nod 
showed him by how slender a thread his life hung. 

In a flash he reflected whither he might fly if he 
should fail to find this hated couple. If, after all, he 
should discover Melissa alive, so much the better. 
Then, he might have been mistaken in identifying 
the body ; some slave girl • might have stolen the 
bracelet and put it on before the house was burned 
down. He knew for a fact that the charred corpse 
of which he had spoken was that of a street wench 



A THORNY PATH. 



313 



who had rushed among the foremost into the house 
of the much-envied imperial favorite — the traitress 
— and had met her death in the spreading flames. 

Zminis had but a moment to rack his inventive 
and prudent brain, but he already had thought of 
something which might perhaps influence Caesar in 
his favor. Of all the Alexandrians, the members of 
the Museum were those whom Caracalla hated most. 
He had been particularly enjoined not to spare one 
of them ; and in the course of the ride which Caesar, 
attended by the armed troopers of Arsinoe, had 
taken through the streets streaming with blood, he 
had stayed longest gazing at the heap of corpses in 
the court-yard of the Museum. In the portico, a 
colonnade copied from the Stoa at Athens, whither 
a dozen or so of the philosophers had fled when at- 
tacked, he had even stabbed several with his own 
hand. The blood on the sword which Caracalla 
had dedicated to Serapis had been shed at the 
Museum. 

The Egyptian had himself led the massacre here, 
and had seen that it was thoroughly effectual. The 
mention of those slaughtered hair-splitters must, if 
anything, be likely to mitigate Caesar's wrath ; so 
no sooner had the applause died away with which 
the proconsul's jest at his expense had been re- 
ceived, than Zminis began to give his report of the 
great massacre in the Museum. He could boast of 
having spared scarcely one of the empty word- 
pickers with whom the epigrams against Caesar and 
his mother had originated. Teachers and pupils, 
even the domestic officials, had been overtaken by 
the insulted sovereign's vengeance. Nothing was 
left but the stones of that great institution, which 
had indeed long outlived its fame. The Numid- 
ians who had helped in the work had been drunk 



314 



A THORNY PATH. 



with blood, and had forced their way even into the 
physician's lecture-rooms and the hospital adjoin- 
ing. There, too, they had given no quarter ; and 
among the sufferers who had been carried thither to 
be healed they had found Tarautas, the wounded 
gladiator. A Numidian, the youngest of the legion, 
a beardless youth, had pinned the terrible conqueror 
of lions and men to the bed with his spear, and then, 
with the same weapon, had released at least a dozen 
of his fellow-sufferers from their pain. 

As he told his story the Egyptian stood staring 
into vacancy, as though he saw it all, and the 
whites of his eyeballs gleamed more hideously than 
ever out of his swarthy face. The lean, sallow 
wretch stood before Caesar like a talking corpse, 
and did not observe the effect his narrative of the 
gladiator's death was producing. But he soon found 
out. While he was yet speaking, Caracalla, leaning 
on the table by his couch with both hands, fixed his 
eyes on his face, without a word. 

Then he suddenly sprang up, and, beside himself 
with rage, he interrupted the terrified Egyptian and 
railed at him furiously: 

" My Tarautas, who had so narrowly escaped 
death ! The bravest hero of his kind basely mur- 
dered on his sick-bed, by a barbarian, a beardless 
boy ! And you, you loathsome jackal, could allow 
it ? This deed — and you know it, villain — will be 
set down to my score. It will be brought up against 
me to the end of my days in Rome, in the provinces, 
everywhere. I shall be cursed for your crime wher- 
ever there is a human heart to throb and feel, and a 
human tongue to speak. And I — when did I ever 
order you to slake your thirst for blood in that of 
the sick and suffering ? Never ! I could never have 
done such a thing ! I even told you to spare the 



A THORNY PATH. 



3IS 



women and helpless slaves. You are all witnesses. 
But you all hear me — I will punish the murderer of 
the wretched sick ! I will avenge you, foully mur- 
dered, brave, noble Tarautas ! — Here, lictors ! Bind 
him — away with him to the Circus with the crimi- 
nals thrown to the wild beasts! He allowed the 
girl whose life I bade him spare to be burned to 
death before his eyes, and the hapless sick were 
slain at his command by a beardless boy ! — And 
. Tarautas ! I valued him as I do all who are superior 
to their kind; I cared for him. He was wounded 
for our entertainment, my friends. Poor fellow — 
poor, brave Tarautas ! " 

He here broke into loud sobs, and it was so un- 
heard-of, so incomprehensible a thing that this man 
should weep who, even at his father's death had 
not shed a tear, that Julius Paulinus himself held 
his mocking tongue. 

The rest of the spectators also kept anxious and 
uneasy silence while the lictors bound Zminis's 
hands, and, in spite of his attempts to raise his voice 
once more in self-defense, dragged him away and 
thrust him out across the threshold of the dining- 
hall. The door closed behind him, and no ap- 
plause followed, though every one approved of the 
Egyptian's condemnation, for Caracalla was still 
weeping. 

Was it possible that these tears could be shed 
for sick people whom he did not know, and for the 
coarse gladiator, the butcher of men and beasts, who 
had had nothing to give Caesar but a few hours of 
excitement at the intoxicating performances in the 
arena ? So it must be ; for from time to time Cara- 
calla moaned softly, " Those unhappy sick ! " or 
" Poor Tarautas ! " 

And, indeed, at this moment Caracalla himself 



3i6 A THORNY PATH. 

could not have said whom he was lamenting. He had 
in the Circus staked his life on that of Tarautas, and 
when he shed tears over his memory it was certainly 
less for the gladiator's sake than over the approach- 
ing end of his own existence, to which he looked 
forward in consequence of Tarautas's death. But 
he had often been jiear the gates of Hades in 
the battle-field with calm indifference ; and now, 
while he thus bewailed the sick and Tarautas with 
bitter lamentations, in his mind he saw no sick-bed, 
nor, indeed, the stunted form of the braggart hero 
of the arena, but the slender, graceful figure of a 
sweet girl, and a blackened, charred arm on which 
glittered a golden armlet. 

That woman ! Treacherous, shameless, but how 
lovely and beloved ! That woman, under his eyes, 
as it were, was swept out of the land of the 
living; and with her, with Melissa, the only girl 
for whom his heart had ever throbbed faster, 
the miracle-worker who had possessed the unique 
power of exorcising his torments, whose love 
— for so he still chose to believe, though he 
had always refus€?d her petitions that he would 
show mercy — whose love would have given him 
strength to become a benefactor to all mankind, a 
second Trajan or Titus. He had quite forgotten 
that he had intended her to meet a disgraceful end 
in the arena under fearful torments, if she had been 
brought to him a prisoner. He felt as though the 
fate of Roxana, with whom his most cherished 
dream had perished, had quite broken his heart; 
and it was Melissa whom he really bewailed, with 
the gladiator's name on his lips and the jewel be- 
fore his eyes which had been his gift, and which she 
had worn on her arm even in death. But he ere 
long controlled this display of feeling, ashamed to 



A THORNY PATH. 



317 



shed tears for her who had cheated him and who 
had fled from his love. Only once more did he sob 
aloud. Then he raised himself, and while holding 
his handkerchief to his eyes he addressed the com- 
pany with theatrical pathos : 

" Yes, my friends, tell whom you will that you 
have seen Bassianus weep ; but add that his tears 
flowed from grief at the necessity for punishing so 
many of his subjects with such rigor. Say, too, 
that Caesar wept with pity and indignation. For 
what good man would not be moved to sorrow at 
seeing the sick and wounded thus maltreated ? 
What humane heart could refrain from loud lam- 
entations at the sight of barbarity which is not 
withheld from laying a murderous hand even on 
the sacred anguish of the sick and wounded ? De- 
fend me, then, against those Romans who may shrug 
their shoulders over the weakness of a weeping 
Caesar — the Terrible. My office demands severity ; 
and yet, my friends, I am not ashamed of these 
tears." 

With this he took leave of his guests and retired 
to rest, and those who remained were soon agreed 
that every word of this speech, as well as Caesar's 
tears, were rank hypocrisy. The mime Theocritus 
admired his sovereign in all sincerity, for how 
rarely could even the greatest actors succeed in 
forcing from their eyes, by sheer determination, a 
flood of real, warm tears — he had seen them flow. 
As Caesar quitted the room, his hand on the lion's 
mane, the praetor Priscillianus whispered to Cilo : 

" Your disciple has been taking lessons here of 
the weeping crocodile." 

Out on the great square the soldiers were 
resting after the day's bloody work. They had 



3i8 



A THORNY PATH. 



lighted large fires in front of the most sacred 
sanctuary of a great city, as though they were 
in the open field.. Round each of these, foot and 
horse soldiers lay or squatted on the ground, 
according to their companies ; and over the wine 
allowed them by Caesar they told each other the 
hideous experiences of the day, which even those 
who had grown rich by it could not think of 
without disgust. Gold and silver cups, the plun- 
der of the city, circulated round those camp-fires 
and the juice of the vine was poured into them 
out of jugs of precious metal. Tongues were wag- 
ging fast, for, though there was indeed but one 
opinion as to what had been done, there were 
mercenaries enough and ambitious pretenders who 
could dare to defend it. Every word might reach 
the sovereign's ears, and the day might bring pro- 
motion as well as gold and booty. Even the calm- 
est were still in some excitement over the massacre 
they had helped in ; the plunder was discussed, and 
barter and exchange were eagerly carried on. 

As Caracalla passed the balcony he stepped out 
for a moment, followed by the lamp-bearers, to 
thank his faithful warriors for the valor and obedi- 
ence they had shown this day. The traitorous 
Alexandrians had now met their deserts. The 
greater the plunder his dear brethren in arms could 
win, the better he would be pleased. This speech 
was hailed with a shout of glee drowning his words ; 
but Caracalla had heard his dearly bought troops 
cheer him with greater zeal and vigor. There were 
here whole groups of men who did not join at all, 
or hardly opened their mouths. And his ear was 
sharp. 

What cause could they have for dissatisfaction 
after such splendid booty, although they did not 



A THORNY PATH. 



319 



yet know that a war with the Parthians was in 
prospect ? 

He must know ; but not to-day. They were to 
be depended on, he felt sure, for they were those to 
whom he was most liberal, and he had taken care 
that there should be no one in the empire whose 
means equaled his own. But that they should be 
so lukewarm annoyed him. To-day, of all days, an 
enthusiastic roar of acclamations would have been 
peculiarly gratifying. They ought to have known 
it ; and he went to his bedroom in silent anger. 

There his freedman Epagathos was waiting for 
him, with Adventus and his learned Indian body- 
slave Arjuna. The Indian never spoke unless he 
was spoken to, and the two others took good care 
not to address their lord. So silence reigned in the 
spacious room while the Indian undressed Caracalla. 
Caesar was wont to say that this man's hands were 
matchless for lightness and delicacy of touch, but 
to-day they trembled as he lifted the laurel wreath 
from Caesar's head and unbuckled the padded breast- 
plate. The events of the day had shaken this man's 
soul to the foundations. In his Eastern home he 
had been taught from his infancy to respect life 
even in beasts, living exclusively on vegetables, 
and holding all blood in abhorrence. He now felt 
the deepest loathing of all about him ; and a pas- 
sionate longing for the peaceful and pure home 
among sages, from which he had been snatched as 
a boy, came over him with increasing vehemence. 
There was nothing here but what it defiled him to 
handle, and his fingers shrank involuntarily from 
their task, as duty compelled him to touch the 
limbs of a man who, to his fancy, was dripping with 
human blood, and who was as much accursed by 
gods and men as though he were a leper. 



320 



A THORNY PATH. 



Arjuna made haste that he might escape from 
the presence of the horrible man, and Caesar took 
no heed either of the pallor of his handsome brown 
face or the trembling of his slender fingers, for a 
crowd of thoughts made him blind and deaf to all 
that was going on around him. They reverted first 
to the events of the day ; but as the Indian removed 
the warm surcoat, the night breeze blew coldly into 
the room, and he shivered. Was it the spirit of the 
slain Tarautas which had floated in at the open win- 
dow ? The cold breath which fanned his cheek was 
certainly no mere draught. It was exactly like a 
human sigh, only it was cold instead of warm. If it 
proceeded from the ghost of the dead gladiator he 
must be quite close to him. And the fancy gained 
reality in his mind ; he saw a floating human form 
which beckoned him and softly laid a cold hand on 
his shoulder. 

He, Caesar, had linked his fate to that of the 
gladiator, and now Tarautas had come to warn 
him. But Caracalla had no mind to follow him ; 
he forbade the apparition with a loud cry of 
" Away ! " 

At this the Indian started, and though he could 
scarcely utter the words, he besought Caesar to be 
seated that he might take off his laced shoes ; 
and then Caracalla perceived that it was an illu- 
sion that had terrified him, and he shrugged his 
shoulders, somewhat ashamed. While the slave 
was busy he wiped his damp brow, saying to him- 
self with a proud smile that of course spirits never 
appeared in broad light and when others were 
present. 

At last he dismissed the Indian and lay down. 
His head was burning, and his heart beat too vio- 
lently for sleep. At his bidding Epagathos and 



A THORNY PATH. 



321 



Adventus followed the Indian into the adjoining 
room after extinguishing the lamp. 

Caracalla was alone in the dark. Awaiting 
sleep, he stretched himself at full length, but he re- 
mained as wide awake as by day. And still he 
could not help thinking of the immediate past. 
Even his enemies could not deny that it was his 
duty as a man and an emperor to inflict the severest 
punishment on this town, and to make it feel his 
avenging hand; and yet he was beginning to be 
aware of the .ruthlessness of his commands. He 
would have been glad to talk it all over with some 
one else. But Philostratus, the only man who un- 
derstood him, was out of reach ; he had sent him to 
his mother. And for what purpose ? To tell her 
that he, Caesar, had found a wife after his own 
heart, and to win her favor and consent. At this 
thought the blood surged up in him with rage and 
shame. Even before they were wed his chosen 
bride had been false to him ; she had fled from his 
embraces, as he now knew, to death, never to re-^ 
turn. 

He would gladly have sent a galley in pursuit 
to bring Philostratus back again ; but the vessel in 
which the philosopher had embarked was one of the 
swiftest in the imperial fleet, and it had already so 
long a start that to overtake it would be almost 
impossible. So within a few days Philostratus 
would meet his mother; he, if any one, could 
describe Melissa's beauty in the most glowing 
colors, and that he would do so to the empress, his 
great friend, was beyond a doubt. But the haughty 
Julia would scarcely be inclined to accept the gem- 
cutter's child for a daughter ; indeed, she did not 
wish that he should ever marry again. 

But what was he to her ? Her heart was given 

45 



322 



A THORNY PATH. 



to the infant son of her niece Mammaea*; in him 
she discovered every gift and virtue. What joy 
there would be among the women of Julia's train 
when it was knowji that Caesar's chosen bride had 
disdained him, and, in him, the very purple. But 
that joy would not be of long duration, for the 
news of the punishment by death of a hundred 
thousand Alexandrians would, he knew, fall like a 
lash on the women. He fancied he could hear their 
howls and wailing, and see the horror of Philostra- 
tus, and how he would join the women in bemoan- 
ing the horrible deed ! He, the philosopher, would 
perhaps be really grieved ; aye, and if he had been 
at his side this morning everything might perhaps 
have been different. But the deed was done, and 
now he must take the consequences. 

That the better sort would avoid him after such 
an act was self-evident — they had already refused 
to eat with him. On the other hand, it had brought 
nearer to him the favorites whom he had attracted 
^to his person. Theocritus and Pandion, Antigonus 
and Epagathos, the priest of Alexander, who at 
Rome was overwhelmed with debt, and who in 
Egypt had become a rich man again, would cling to 
him more closely. 

" Base wretches ! " he muttered to himself. 

If only Philostratus would come back to him! 
But he scarcely dared hope it. The evil took so much 
more care for their own well-being and multiplication 
than the good. If one of the righteous fell away, all 
the others forthwith turned their backs on him ; and 
when the penitent desired to return to the fold, the 
immaculate repelled or avoided him. But the wicked 
could always find the fallen man at once, and would 

* The third Caesar after Caracalla, Alexander Severus. 



A THORNY PATH. 



323 



ding to him and hinder him from returning. Their 
ranks were always open to him, however closely^ he 
might formerly have been attached to the virtuous. 
To live in exclusive intercourse with these repro- 
bates was an odious thought. He could compel 
whom he chose to live with him ; but of what use 
were silent and reluctant companions ? And whose 
fault was it that he had sent away Philostratus, the 
best of them all ? Hers — the faithless traitoress, 
from whom he had looked for peace and joy, who 
had declared that she felt herself bound to him, the 
trickster in whom he had believed he saw Roxana — ; 
But she was no more. On the table by his bed, 
among his own jewels, lay the golden serpent he 
had given her — he fancied he could see it in the 
dark — and she had worn it even in death. He shud- 
dered; he felt as though a woman's arm, all black 
and charred, was stretched out to him in the night, 
and the golden snake uncurled from it and reached 
forth as thouglv-to bite him. 

He shivered, and hid his head under the coverlet ; 
but, ashamed and vexed at his own foolish weak- 
ness, he soon emerged from the stifling darkness, 
and an inward voice scornfully asked him whether 
he still believed that the soul of the great Mace- 
donian inhabited his body. There was an end of 
this proud conviction. He had no more connection 
with Alexander than Melissa had with Roxana, 
whom she ti6sembled. 

The blood seethed hotly in his veins ; to live on 
these terms seemed to him impossible. 

As soon as it was day it must surely be seen 
that he was very seriously ill. The spirit of Tarau- 
tas would again appear to him — and not merely 
as a vaporous illusion — and put an end to his utter 
misery. 



324 A THORNY PATH. 

But he felt his own pulse; it beat no more 
quickly than usual. He had no fever, and yet he 
must be ill, very ill. And again he flushed so hotly 
that he felt as if he should choke. Breathing hard, 
he sat up to call his physician. Then he observed 
a light through the half-closed door of the adjoin- 
ing room. He heard voices — those of Adventus 
and the Indian. 

Arjuna was generally so silent that Philostratus 
had vainly endeavored to discover from him any 
particulars as to the doctrine of the Brahmans, 
among whom Apollonius of Tyana declared that he 
had found the highest wisdom, or concerning the 
manners of his people. And yet the Indian was a 
man of learning, and could even read the manu- 
scripts of his country. The Parthian ambassador 
had expressly dwelt on this when he delivered Ar- 
juna to Caesar as a gift from his king. But Arjuna 
had never favored any of these strangers with his 
confidence. Only with old Adventus did he ever 
hold conversation, for the chamberlain took care 
that he should be supplied with the vegetables 
and fruit on which he was accustomed to live — for 
meat never passed his lips; and now he was talking 
with the old man, and Caracalla sat up and laid his 
hand to his ear. 

The Indian was absorbed in the study of a book- 
roirin his own tongue, which he carried about him. 

" What are you reading ? " asked Ac^entus. 

" A book," replied Arjuna, ** from which a man 
may learn what will become of you and me, and all 
these slaughtered victims, after death." 

" Who can know that ? " said the old man with a 
sigh; and Arjuna replied very positively: 

" It is written here, and there is no doubt about 
it. Will you hear it ? " 



A THORNY PATH. 325 

"Certainly," said Adventus eagerly, and the 
Indian began translating out of his book : 

" When a man dies his various parts go whither 
they belong. His voice goes to the fire, his breath 
to the winds, his eyes to the sun, his spirit to the 
moon, his hearing becomes one with space, his body 
goes to the earth, his soul is absorbed into ether, his 
hairs become plants, the hair of his head goes to 
crown the trees, his blood returns to water. Thus, 
every portion of a man is restored to that portion 
of the universe to which it belongs ; and of himself, 
his own essence, nothing remains but one part: 
what that is called is a great secret." 

Caracalla was listening intently. This discourse 
attracted him. 

He, like the other Caesars, must after his death 
be deified by the senate ; but he felt convinced, for 
his part, that the Olympians would never count him 
as one of themselves. At the same time he was 
philosopher enough to understand that no existing 
thing could ever cease to exist. The restoration of 
each part of his body to that portion of the uni- 
verse to which it was akin, pleased his fancy. There 
was no place in the Indian's creed for the responsi- 
bility of the soul at the judgment of the dead. 
Caesar was already on the point of asking the slave 
to reveal his secret, when Adventus prevented him 
by exclaiming : 

" You may confide to me what will be left of me 
— unless, indeed, you mean the worms which shall 
eat me and so proceed from me. It can not be good 
for much, at any rate, and I will tell no one." 

To this Arjuna solemnly replied : " There is one 
thing which persists to all eternity and can never be 
lost in all the ages of the universe, and that is — the 
deed." 



326 A THORNY PATH. 

" I know that," replied the old man with an in- 
different shrug ; but the word struck Caesar like a 
thunder-bolt. He listened breathlessly to hear what 
more the Indian might say; but Ar j una, who re- 
garded it as sacrilege to waste the highest lore on 
one unworthy of it, went on reading to himself, and 
Adventus stretched himself out to sleep. 

All was silent in and about the sleeping-room, 
and the fearful words, " the deed," still rang in the 
ears of the man who had just committed the most 
monstrous of all atrocities. He could not get rid 
of the haunting words ; all the ill he had done from 
his childhood returned to him in fancy, and seemed 
heaped up to form a mountain which weighed on 
him like an incubus. 

The deed ! 

His, too, must live on, and with it his name, 
cursed and hated to the latest generations of men. 
The souls of the slain would have carried the news 
of the deeds he had done even to Hades ; and if 
Tarautas were to come and fetch him away, he 
would be met below by legions of indignant shades 
— a hundred thousand ! And at their head his stern 
father, and the other worthy men who had ruled 
Rome with wisdom and honor, would shout in his 
face: **A hundred thousand times a murderer! 
robber of the state ! destroyer of the army ! " and 
drag him before the judgment-seat; and before 
judgment could be pronounced the hundred thou- 
sand, led by the noblest of all his victims, the good 
Papinian, would rush upon him and tear him limb 
from limb. 

Dozing as he lay, he felt cold, ghostly hands on 
his shoulder, on his head, wherever the cold breath 
of the waning night could fan him through the 
open window ; and with a loud cry he sprang out of 



A THORNY PATH. 



327 



bed as he fancied he felt a touch of the shadowy 
hand of Vindex. On hearing his voice, Adventus 
and the Indian hurried in, with Epagathos, who had 
even heard his shriek in the farther room. They 
found him bathed in a sweat of horror, and strug- 
gling for breath, his eyes fixed on vacancy; and 
the freedman flew off to fetch the physician. When 
he came Caesar angrily dismissed him, for he felt no 
physical disorder. Without dressing, he went to the 
window. It was about three hours before sunrise. 

However, he gave orders that his bath should 
be prepared, and desired to be dressed ; then Macri- 
nus and others were to be sent for. Sooner would 
he step into boiling water than return to that bed 
of terror. Day, life, business must banish his ter- 
rors. But then, after the evening would come an- 
other night ; and if the sufferings he had just gone 
through should repeat themselves then, and in those 
to follow, he should lose his wits, and he would 
bless the spirit of Tarautas if it would but come to 
lead him away to death. 

But '* the deed ** ! The Indian was right — that 
would survive him on earth, and mankind would 
unite in cursing him. 

Was there yet time — was he yet capable of aton- 
ing for what was done by some great and splendid 
deed ? But the hundred thousand ! 

The number rose before him like a mountain, 
blotting out every scheme he tried to form as he went 
to his bath — taking his lion with him ; he reveled in 
the warm water, and finally lay down to rest in 
clean linen wrappers. No one had dared to speak 
to him. His aspect was too threatening. 

In a room adjoining the bath-room he had 
breakfast served him. It was, as usual, a simple 
meal, and yet he could only swallow a few mouth- 



328 



A THORNY PATH. 



fuls, for everything had a bitter taste. The praeto- 
rian prefect was roused, and Caesar was glad to see 
him, for it was in attending to affairs that he most 
easily forgot what weighed upon him. The more 
serious they were, the better, and Macrinus looked 
as if there was something of grave importance to 
be settled. 

Caracalla's first question was with reference to 
the Parthian ambassadors. They had, in fact, de- 
parted ; now he must prepare for war. Caesar was 
eager to decide at once on the destination of each 
legion, and to call the legates together to a council 
of war ; but Macrinus was not so prompt and ready 
as usual on such occasions. He had that to com- 
municate which, as he knew, would to Caesar take 
the lead of all else. If it should prove true, it must 
withdraw him altogether ifrom the affairs of govern- 
ment ; and this was what Macrinus aimed at when, 
before summoning the legates, he observed with a 
show of reluctance that Caesar would be wroth with 
him if, for the sake of a council of war, he were to 
defer a report which had just reached his ears. 

" Business first ! " cried Caracalla, with decisive 
prohibition. 

" As you will. I thought only of what I was 
told by an official of this temple, that the gemcutter's 
daughter — you know the girl — is still alive — " 

But he got no further, for Caesar sprang to his 
feet, and desired to hear more of this. 

Macrinus proceeded to relate that a slaughterer 
in the court of sacrifice had told him that Melissa 
had been seen last evening, and was somewhere in 
the Serapeum. More than this the prefect knew 
not, and Caesar forthwith dismissed him to make 
further inquiry before he himself should take steps 
to prove the truth of the report. 



A THORNY PATH. 



329 



Then he paced the room with revived energy. 
His eye sparkled, and, breathing fast, he strove to 
jeduce the storm of schemes, plans, and hopes which 
surged up within him to some sort of order. He 
must punish the fugitive — but yet more surely he 
would never again let her out of his sight. But if 
only he could first have her cast to the wild beasts, 
and then bring her to life again, crown her with the 
imperial diadem, and load her with every gift that 
power and wealth could procure ! He would read 
every wish in her eyes, if only she would once more 
lay her hand on his forehead, charm away his pain, 
and bring sleep to his horror-stricken bed. He had 
done nothing to vex her ; nay, every petition she 
had urged — But suddenly the image rose before 
him of old Vindex and his nephew, whom he had 
sent to execution in spite of her intercession ; and 
again the awful word, "the deed," rang in his in- 
ward ear. Were these hideous thoughts to haunt 
him even by day ? 

No, no ! In his waking hours there was much 
to be done which might give him the strength to 
dissipate them. 

The kitchen-steward was by this time in attend- 
ance ; but what did Caracalla care for dainties to 
tickle his palate now that he had a hope of seeing 
Melissa once more? With perfect indifference he 
left the catering to the skillful and inventive cook ; 
and hardly had he retired when Macrinus returned. 

The slaughterer had acquired his information 
through a comrade, who said that he had twice 
caught sight of Melissa at the window of the 
chambers of mystery in the upper story of the 
Serapeum, yesterday afternoon. He had hoped to 
win the reward which was offered for the recovery 
of the fugitive, and had promised his colleague half 



330 



A THORNY PATH. 



the money if he would help him to capture the 
maiden. But just at sunset, hearing that the mas- 
sacre was ended, the man had incautiously gone out 
into the town, where he had been slain by a drunken 
soldier of the Scythian legion. The hapless man's 
body had been found, but Macrinus's informant 
had assured him that he could entirely rely on the 
report of his unfortunate colleague, who was a 
sober and truthful man, as the chief augur would 
testify. 

This was enough for Caracalla. Macrinus was 
at once to go for the high-priest, and to take care 
that he took no further steps to conceal Melissa. 
The slaughterer had ever since daybreak kept secret 
watch on all the doors of the Serapeum, aided by 
his comrades, who were to share in the reward, 
and especially on the stairway leading from the 
ground floor up to the mystic's galleries. 

The prefect at once obeyed the despot's com- 
mand. On the threshold he met the kitchen-steward 
returning to submit his list of dishes for Caesar's 
approval. 

He found Caracalla in an altered mood, reju- 
venescent and in the highest spirits. After hastily 
agreeing to the day's bill of fare, he asked the 
steward in what part of the building the chambers 
of mystery were ; and when he learned that the stairs 
leading up to them began close to the kitchens, 
which had been arranged for Caesar's convenience 
under the temple laboratory, Caracalla declared 
in a condescending tone that he would go to look 
round the scene of the cook's labors. And the lion 
should come too, to return thanks for the good 
meat which was brought to him so regularly. 

The head cook, rejoiced at the unwonted gra- 
ciousness of a master whose wrath had often fallen 



A THORNY PATH. 



331 



on him, led the way to his kitchen hearth. This 
had been constructed in a large ^hall, originally the 
largest of the laboratories, where incense was pre- 
pared for the sanctuary atid medicines concocted 
for the sick in the temple hospital. There were 
smaller halls and rooms adjoining, where at this 
moment some priests were busy preparing kyphi 
and mixing drugs. 

The steward, proud of Caesar's promised visit, 
announced to his subordinates the honor they might 
expect, and he then went to the door of the small 
laboratory to tell the old pastophoros who was 
employed there, and who had done him many a 
good turn, that if he wished to see the emperor he 
had only to open the door leading to the staircase. 
He was about to visit the mystic chambers with his 
much-talked-of lion. No one need be afraid of the 
beast ; it was quite tame, and Caesar loved it as a 
son. 

At this the old drug-pounder muttered some reply, 
which sounded more like a curse than the expected 
thanks, and the steward regretted having compared 
the lion to a son in this man's presence, for the 
pastophoros wore a mourning garment, and two 
promising sons had been snatched from him, slain 
yesterday with the other youths in the stadium. 

But the cook soon forgot the old man's ill- 
humor ; he had to clear his subordinates out of the 
way as quickly as possible and prepare for his illus- 
trious visitor. As he bustled around, here, there, and 
everywhere, the pastophoros entered the kitchen 
and begged for a piece of mutton. This was 
granted him by a hasty sign toward a freshly slaugh- 
tered sheep, and the old man busied himself for 
some time behind the steward's back. At last he 
had cut off what he wanted, and gazed with singular 



332 



A THORNY PATH. 



tenderness at the piece of red, veinless meat. On 
returning to his laboratory, he hastily bolted him- 
self in, and when he came out again a few minutes 
later his calm, wrinkled old face had a malignant 
and evil look. He stood at the bottom of the stairs, 
looking about him cautiously ; then he flew up the 
steps with the agility of youth, and at a turn in 
the stairs he stuck the piece of meat close to the 
foot of the balustrade. 

He returned as nimbly as he had gone, cast a 
sorrowful glance through the open laboratory win- 
dow at the arena where all that had graced his life 
lay dead, and passed his hand over his tearful face. 
At last he returned to his task, but he was less able 
to do it than before. It was with a trembling hand 
that he weighed out the juniper berries and cedar 
resin, and he listened all the time with bated 
breath. 

Presently there was a stir on the stairs, and the 
kitchen slaves shouted that Caesar was coming. So 
he went out of the laboratory, which was behind the 
stairs, to see what was going forward, and a turn- 
spit at once made way for the old man so as not to 
hinder his view. 

Was that little young man, mounting the steps 
so gayly, with the high-priest at his side and his 
suite at his heels, the dreadful monster who had 
murdered his noble sons ? He had pictured the 
dreadful tyrant quite differently. Now Caesar was 
laughing, and the tall man next him made some 
light and ready reply — the head cook said it was 
the Roman priest of Alexander, who was not on 
good terms with Timotheus, Could they be laugh- 
ing at the high-priest ? Never, in all the years he 
had known him, had he seen Timotheus so pale and 
dejected. 



A THORNY PATH. 



333 



The high-priest had indeed good cause for anx- 
iety, for he suspected who it was that Caesar hoped 
to find in the mystic rooms, and feared that his wife 
might, in fact, have Melissa in hidinjg^ in that part 
of the building to which he was now leading the 
way. After Macrinus had come to fetch him he 
had had no opportunity of inquiring, for the pre- 
fect had not quitted him for a moment, and £u- 
ryale was in the town busy with other women in 
seeking out and nursing such of the wounded as 
had been found alive among the dead. 

Caesar triumphed in the changed, gloomy, and 
depressed demeanor of a man usually-so self-pos- 
sessed ; for he fancied that it betrayed some knowl- 
edge on the part of Timotheus of Melissa's hiding- 
place; and he could jest with the priest of Alex- 
ander and his favorite Theokritus and the other 
friends who attended him, while he ignored the 
high-priest's presence and never even alluded to 
Melissa. 

Hardly had they gone past the old man when, 
just as the kitchen slaves were shouting " Hail, 
Caesar ! " the lady Euryale, as pale as death, hurried 
in, and with a trembling voice inquired whither her 
husband was conducting the emperor. 

She had turned back when half way on her road, 
in obedience to the impulse of her heart, which 
prompted her, before she went on her Samaritan's 
errand, to visit Melissa in her hiding-place, and let 
her see the face of a friend at the beginning of a 
new, lonely, and anxious day. On hearing the 
reply which was readily given, her knees trembled 
beneath her, and the steward, who saw her totter, 
supported her and led her into the laboratory, where 
essences and strong waters soon restored her to 
consciousness. Euryale had known the old pas- 



334 



A THORNY PATH. 



tophoros a long time, and, noticing his mourning 
garb, she asked sympathetically : " And you, too, 
are bereft ? " 

" Of both," was the answer. " You were always 
so good to them — Slaughtered like beasts for 
sacrifice — down there in the stadium," and tears 
flowed fast down the old man's furrowed cheeks. 
The lady uplifted her hands as though calling on 
Heaven to avenge this outrageous crime; at the 
same instant a loud howl of pain was heard from 
above, and a great confusion of men's voices. 

Euryale was beside herself with fear. If they had 
found Melissa in her room her husband's fate was 
sealed, and she was guilty of his doom. But they 
could scarcely yet have- opened the chambers, and 
the girl was clever and nimble, and might perhaps 
escape in time if she heard the men approaching. 
She eagerly flew to the window. She could see 
below her the stone which Melissa must move to 
get out ; but between the wall and the stadium the 
street was crowded, and at every door of the Sera- 
peum Hctors were posted, even at that stone door 
known only to the initiated, with the temple slaugh- 
terers and other servants who seemed all to be on 
guard. If Melissa were to come out now she would 
be seized, and it must become known who had 
shown her the way into the hiding-place that had 
sheltered her. 

At this moment Theokritus came leaping down 
the stairs, crying out to her : " The lion — a physi- 
cian — where shall I find a leech ? " 

The matron pointed to the old man, who was 
one of the medical students of the sanctuary, and 
the favorite shouted out to him, " Come up ! " and 
then rushed on, paying no heed to Euryale's in* 
quiry for Melissa ; but the old man laughed scorn* 



A THORNY PATH. 



335 



fully and shouted after him, " I am no beast- 
healer." 

Then, turning to the lady, he added : 

" I am sorry for the lion. You know me, lady. 
I could never till yesterday bear to see a fly hurt. 
But this brute ! It was as a son to that bloodhound, 
and he shall feel for once something to grieve him. 
The lion has had his portion. No physician in the 
world can bring him to life again." 

He bent his head and returned to his labora- 
tory; but the matron understood that this kind, 
peaceable man, in spite of his white hair, had be- 
come a poisoner, and that the splendid, guiltless 
beast owed its death to him. She shuddered. Wher- 
ever this unblest man went, good turned to evil ; 
terror, suffering, and death took the place of peace, 
happiness, and life. He had forced her even into the 
sin of disobedience to her husband and master. But 
now her secret hiding of Melissa against his will 
would be avenged. He and she alike would prob- 
ably pay for the deed with their life ; for the murder 
of his lion would inevitably rouse Caesar's wildest 
passions. 

Still, she knew that Caracalla respected her ; for 
her sake, perhaps, he would spare her husband. 

But Melissa ? What would her fate be if she 
were dragged out of her hiding-place? — and she 
must be discovered ! He had threatened to cast 
her to the beasts ; and ought she not to prefer even 
that fearful fate to forgiveness and a fresh out- 
burst of Caesar's passion ? 

Pale and tearless, but shaken with alarms, she 
bent over the balustrade of the stairs and mur- 
mured a prayer commending herself, her husband, 
and Melissa to God. Then she hastened up the 
steps. The great doors leading to the chambers of 



336 A THORNY PATH. 

mystery stood wide open, and the first person she 
met was her husband. 

" You here ? " said he in an undertone. " You may 
thank the gods that your kind heart did not betray 
you into hiding the girl here. I trembled for her 
and for ourselves. But there is not a sign of her ; 
neither here nor on the secret stair. What a morn- 
ing — and what a day must follow! There lies 
Caesar's lion. If his suspicion that it has been poi- 
soned should be proved true, woe to this luckjess 
city, woe to us all ! " 

And Caesar's aspect justified the worst anticipa- 
tions. He had thrown himself on the floor by the 
side of his dead favorite, hiding his face in the 
lion's noble mane, with strange, quavering wailing. 
Then he raised the brute's heavy head and kissed 
his dead eyes, and as it slipped from his hand and 
fell on the floor, he started to his feet, shaking his 
fist, and exclaiming : 

" Yes, you have poisoned him ! Bring the mis- 
creant here, or you shall follow him ! " 

Macrinus assured him that if indeed some basest 
of base wretches had dared to destroy the life of 
this splendid and faithful king of beasts, the mur- 
derer should infallibly be found. But Caracalla 
screamed in his face : 

" Found ? Dare you speak of finding ? Have 
you even brought me the girl who was hidden here ? 
Have you found her ? Where is she ? She was seen 
here and she must be here ! " 

And he hurried from room to room in undigni- 
fied haste, like a slave hunting for some lost treas- 
ure of his master's, tearing open closets, peeping 
behind curtains and up chimneys, and snatching 
the clothes, behind which she might have hidden, 
from the pegs on which they hung. He insisted on 



A THORNY PATH. 



337 



seeing every secret door, and ran first down and 
then up the hidden stairs by which Melissa had in 
fact escaped. 

In the great hall, where by this time physicians 
and courtiers had gathered round the carcass of the 
lion, Caesar sank on to a seat, his brow damp with 
heat, and stared at the floor ; while the leeches, who, 
as Alexandrians for the most part, were anxious not 
to rouse the despot's rage, assured him that to all 
appearance the lion, who had been highly fed and 
getting little exercise, had died of a fit. The poison 
had indeed worked more rapidly than any the im- 
perial body physician was acquainted with; and 
he, not less anxious to mollify the sovereign, bore 
them out in this opinion. But their diagnosis, though 
well meant, had the contrary effect to that they had 
intended. The prosecution and punishment of a 
murderer would have given occupation to his re- 
vengeful spirit and have diverted his thoughts, and 
the capture of the criminal would have pacified 
him ; as it was, he could only regard the death of 
the lion as a fresh stroke of fate directed against 
himself. He sat absorbed in sullen gloom, mut- 
tering frantic curses, and haughtily desired the 
high-priest to restore the offering he had wasted on 
a god who was so malignant, and as hostile to him 
as all else in this city of abomination. 

He then rose, desired every one to stand back 
from where the lion lay, and gazed down at the 
beast for many minutes. And as he looked, his ex- 
cited imagination showed him Melissa stroking the 
noble brute, and the lion lashing the ground with 
his tail when he heard the light step of her little 
feet. He could hear the music of her voice when 
she spoke coaxingly to the lion ; and then again he 
started off to search the rooms once more, shouting 
46 



33» 



A THORNY PATH. 



her name, heedless of the bystanders, till Macrinus 
made so bold as to assure him that the slaughterer's 
report must have been false. He must have mis- 
taken some one else for Melissa, for it was proved 
beyond a doubt that Melissa had been burned in 
her father's house. 

At this Csesar looked the prefect in the face 
with glazed and wandering eyes, and Macrinus 
started in horror as he suddenly shrieked, "The 
deed, the deed ! " and struck his brow with his fist. 

From that hour Caracalla had lost forever the 
power of distinguishing the illusions which pursued 
him from reality. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

A WEEK later Caracalla quitted Alexandria to 
make war on the Parthians. What finally drove the 
unhappy man to hurry from the hated place was 
the torturing fear of sharing his lion's fate, and of 
being sent after the murdered Tarautas by the 
friends who had heard his appeal to fate. 

Quite mad he was not, for the illusions which 
haunted him were often absent for several hours, 
when he spoke with perfect lucidity, received re- 
ports, and gave orders. It was with peculiar terror 
that his soul avoided every recollection of his 
mother, of Theokritus, and all those whose opinion 
he had formerly valued and whose judgment was 
not indifferent to him. 

In constant terror of the dagger of an avenger — 
a dread which, with many other peculiarities, the 
leech could hardly ascribe to the diseased phenomena 
of his mental state — he only showed himself to his 
soldiers, and he might often be seen making a meal 
off a pottage he himself had cooked to escape the 
poison which had been fatal to his lion. He was 
never for an instant free from the horrible sense of 
being hated, shunned, and persecuted by the whole 
world. 

Sometimes he would remember that once a fair 
girl had prayed for him; but when he tried to 
recall her features he could only see the charred arm 



340 



A THORNY PATH. 



with the golden snake held up before him as he had 
pictured it that night after the most hideous of his 
massacres ; and every time, at the sight of it, that 
word came back to him which still tortured his soul 
above all else — " The deed." But his attendants, 
who heard him repeating it day and night, never 
knew what he meant by it. 

When Zminis met his end by the wild beasts in 
the arena, it was before half-empty seats, though 
several legions had been ordered into the amphi- 
theatre to fill them. The larger number of the 
citizens were slain, and the remainder were in 
mourning for relatives more or less near; and they 
also kept away from the scene to avoid the hated 
despot. 

Macrinus now governed the empire almost as a 
sovereign, for Caesar, formerly a laborious and au- 
tocratic ruler, shrank from all business. Even be- 
fore they left Alexandria the plebeian prefect could 
see that Serapion's prophecy was fulfilling itself. 
He remained in close intimacy with the soothsayer ; 
but only once more, and just before Caesar's de- 
parture, could the magian be induced to raise the 
spirits of the dead, for his clever accomplice. Cas- 
tor, had fallen a victim in the massacre because, 
prompted by the high price set on Alexander's head, 
and his own fierce hatred of the young painter, he 
would go out to discover where he and his sister 
had concealed themselves. 

When at last the unhappy monarch quitted 
Alexandria one rainy morning, followed by the 
curses of innumerable mourners — fathers, mothers, 
widows, and orphans — as well as of ruined artisans 
and craftsmen, the ill-used city, once so proudly 
gay, felt itself relieved of a crushing nightmare. 
This time it was not to Caesar that the cloudy sky 



A THORNY PATH. 



341 



promised welfare — ^his life was wrapped in gloom — 
but to the people he had so bitterly hated. Thou- 
sands looked forward hopefully to life once more, 
in spite of their mourning robes and widows* veils, 
and notwithstanding the serious hindrances which 
the malice of their " afflicted " sovereign had placed 
in the way of the resuscitation of their town, for 
Caracalla had commanded that a wall should be 
built to divide the great merchant city into two 
parts. 

Nay, he had intended to strike a death-blow 
even at the learning to which Alexandria owed a 
part of her greatness, by decreeing that the Museum 
and schools should be removed and the theatres 
closed. 

Maddening alike to heart and brain was the 
memory that he left behind him, and the citizens 
would shake their fists if only his name were spoken. 
But their biting tongues had ceased to mock or jest. 
Most of the epigrammatists were silenced forever, 
and the nimble wit of the survivors was quelled for 
many a month by bitter curses or tears of sorrow. 

But now — it was a fortnight since the dreadful 
man had left — the shops and stores, which had been 
closed against the plunderers, were being reopened. 
Life was astir again in the deserted and silent 
baths and taverns, for there was no further fear 
of rapine from insolent soldiers, or the treacher- 
ous ears of spies and delators. Women and girls 
could once more venture into the highways, the 
market was filled with dealers, and many an one who 
was conscious of a heedless speech or suspected 
of whistling in the circus, or of some other crime, 
now came out of his well-watched hiding-place. 

Glaukias, the sculptor, among others, reopened 
his work-rooms in Heron's garden-plot. In the 



342 



A THORNY PATH. 



cellar beneath the floor the gem-cutter had re- 
mained hidden with Polybius and his sister Prax- 
illa, for the easy-going old man could not be in- 
duced to embark in the vessel which Argutis had 
hired for them. Sooner would he die than leave 
Alexandria. He was too much petted and too 
infirm to face the discomforts of a sea voyage. 
And his obstinacy had served him well, for* the ship 
in. which they were to have sailed, though it got 
out before the harbor was closed, was overtaken 
and brought back by an imperial galley. 

Polybius was, however, quite willing to accept 
Heron's invitation to share his hiding-place. 

Now they could both come out again ; but these 
few weeks had affected them very differently. The 
gem-cutter looked like the shadow of himself, 
and had lost his upright carriage. He knew, in- 
deed, that Melissa was alive, and that Alexander, 
after being wounded, had been carried by Andreas 
to the house of Zeno, and was on the way to re- 
covery ; but the death of his favorite son preyed on 
his mind, and it was a great grievance that his 
house should have been wrecked and burned. His 
hidden gold, which was safe with him, would have 
allowed of his building a far finer one in its stead, 
but the fact that it should be his fellow-citizens 
who had destroyed it was worst of all. It weighed 
on his spirits, and made him morose and silent. 

Old Dido, who had risked her life more than 
once, looked at him with mournful eyes, and be- 
sought all the gods she worshiped to restore her 
good master's former vigor, that she might once 
more hear him curse and storm; for his subdued 
mood seemed to her unnatural and alarming — a por- 
tent of his approaching end. 

Praxilla, too, the comfortable widow, had grown 



\ 



A THORNY PATH. 



343 



pale and thin, but old Dido had learned a great deal 
from her teaching. Polybius only was more cheer- 
ful than ever. He knew that his son and Melissa 
had escaped the most imminent dangers. This 
made him glad ; and then his sister had done won- 
ders that he might not too greatly miss his cook. 
His meals had nevertheless been often scanty 
enough, and this compulsory temperance had re- 
lieved him of his gout and done him so much 
good that, when Andreas led him out into daylight 
once more, the burly old man exclaimed : " I feel 
as light as a bird. If I had but wings I could fly 
across the lake to see the boy. It is you, my broth- 
er, who have helped to make me so much lighter." 

He laid his arm on the freedman's shoulder and 
kissed him on the cheeks. It was for the first time ; 
and never before had he called him brother. But 
that his lips had obeyed the impulse of his heart 
might be seen in the tearful glitter of his eyes, 
which met those of Andreas, and they, too, were 
moist. 

Polybius knew all that the Christian had done 
for his son and for Melissa, for him and his, and his 
jest in saying that Andreas had helped to make him 
lighter referred to his latest achievement. Julianus, 
the new governor of the city, who now occupied the 
residence of the prefect Titian us, had taken advan- 
tage of the oppressed people to extract money, and 
Andreas, by the payment of a large sum, had suc- 
ceeded in persuading him to sign a document which 
exonerated Polybius and his son from all crimi- 
nality, and protected their person and property 
against soldiers and town guards alike. This safe- 
conduct secured a peaceful future to the genial old 
man, and filled the measure of what he owed to the 
freedman, even to overflowing. Andreas, on his part, 



344 



A THORNY PATH. 



felt that his former owner's kiss and brotherly greet- 
ing had sealed his acceptance as a free man. He 
asked no greater reward than this he had just re- 
ceived ; and there was another thing which made his 
heart leap with gladness. He knew now that the 
fullness of time had come in the best sense for the 
daughter of the only woman he had ever loved, 
and that the Good Shepherd had called her to be 
one of His flock. He could rejoice over this without 
a pang, for he had learned that Diodoros, too, had 
entered on the path which hitherto he had pointed 
out to him in vain. 

A calm cheerfulness, which surprised all who 
knew him, brightened the grave man ; for him the 
essence of Christian love lay in the Resurrection, 
and he saw with astonishment that a wonderful 
new vitality was rising out of death. For Alex- 
andria, too, the time was fulfilled. Men and women 
crowded to the rite of baptism. Mothers brought 
their daughters, and fathers their sons. These days 
of horror had multiplied the little Christian con- 
gregation to a church of ten thousand members. 
Caracalla turned hundreds from heathenism by his 
bloody sacrifices, his love of fighting, his passion for 
revenge, and the blindness which made him cast 
away all care for his eternal soul to secure the en- 
joyment of a brief existence. That the sword 
which had slain thousands of their sons should 
have been dedicated to Serapis, and accepted by 
the god, alienated many of the citizens from the 
patron divinity of the town. Then the news that 
Timotheus the high-priest had abdicated his office 
soon after Caesar's departure, and, with his revered 
wife Euryale, had been baptized by their friend the 
learned Clemens, confirmed many in their desire to 
be admitted into the Christian community. 



A THORNY PATH. 



345 



After these horrors of bloodshed, these orgies of 
hatred and vengeance, every heart longed for love 
and peace and brotherly communion. Who of all 
those that had looked death in the face in these 
days was not anxious to know more of the creed 
which taught that the life beyond the grave was of 
greater importance than that on earth ? — while those 
who already held it went forth to meet, as it were, 
a bridegroom. They had seen men trodden down 
and all their rights trampled on, and now every ear 
was open when a doctrine was preached which rec- 
ognized the supreme value of humanity, by ascribing, 
even to the humblest, the dignity of a child of God. 
They were accustomed to pray to immortal beings 
who lived in privileged supremacy and wild revelry 
at the golden tables of the Olympian banquet ; and 
now they were told that the church of the Chris- 
tians meant the communion of the faithful with their 
fatherly God, and with His Son who had mingled 
with other mortals in the form of man and who had 
done more for them than a brother, inasmuch as He 
had taken upon Himself to die on the cross for love 
of them. 

To a highly cultured race like the Alexandrians 
it had long seemed an absurdity to try to purchase 
the favor of the gods by blood-offerings. Many 
philosophical sects, and especially the Pythagoreans, 
had forbidden such sacrifices, and had enjoined the 
bringing of offerings not to purchase good fortune, 
but only to honor the gods ; and now they saw the 
Christians not making any offerings at all, but shar- 
ing a love-feast. This, as they declared, was to keep 
them in remembrance of their brotherhood and of 
their crucified Lord, whose blood, once shed, His 
heavenly Father had accepted instead of every other 
sacrifice. The voluntary and agonizing death of 



346 



A THORNY PATH. 



tlie Redeemer had saved the soul of every Christian 
from sin and damnation ; and many who in the late 
scenes of horror had been inconsolable in anticipa- 
tion of the grave, felt moved to share in this divine 
gift of grace. 

Beautiful, wise, and convincing sentences from 
the Bible went from lip to lip; and a saying of 
Clemens, whose immense learning was well known, 
was especially effective and popular. He had said 
that " faith was knowledge of divine things through 
revelation, but that learning must give the proof 
thereof"; and this speech led many men of high 
attainments to study the new doctrines. 

The lower classes were no doubt those most 
strongly attracted, the poor and the slaves; and 
with them the sorrowing and oppressed. There 
were many of these now in the town ; ten thousand 
had seen those dearest to them perish, and others, 
being wounded, had within a few days been ruined 
both in health and estate. 

As to Melissa in her peril, so to all these the 
Saviour's call to the heavy-laden that He would 
give them rest had come as a promise of new hope 
to ear and heart. At the sound of these words they 
saw the buds of a new spring-time for the soul 
before their eyes ; any one who knew a Christian 
improved his intimacy that he might hear more 
about the tender-hearted Comforter, the Friend of 
children, the kind and helpful Patron of the poor, 
the sorrowful, and the oppressed. 

Assemblies of any kind were prohibited by the 
new governor ; but the law of Aelius Marcianus al- 
lowed gatherings for religious purposes, and the 
learned lawyer, Johannes, directed his fellow-Chris- 
tians to rely on that. All Alexandria was bidden 
to these meetings, and the text with which Andreas 



A THORNY PATH. 



347 



opened the first, " Now the fullness of time is 
come," passed from mouth to mouth. 

Apart from that period which had preceded the 
birth of Christ, these words applied to none better 
than to the days of death and terror which they had 
just gone through. Had a plainer boundary-stone 
ever been erected between a past and a future time ? 
Out of the old vain and careless life, which had ended 
with such fearful horrors, a new life would now pro- 
ceed of peace and love and pious cares. 

The greater number of the citizens, and at their 
head the wealthy and proud, still crowded the 
heathen temples to serve the old gods and pur- 
chase their favor with offerings ; still, the Christian 
churches were too small and few to hold the faith- 
ful, and these had risen to higher consideration, 
for the community no longer consisted exclusively 
of the lower rank of people and slaves. No, men 
and women of the best families came streaming in, 
and this creed — as was proclaimed by Demetrius, 
the eloquent bishop ; by Origen, who in power and 
learning was the superior of any heathen philosopher; 
by the zealous Andreas, and many another chosen 
spirit — this creed was the religion of the future. 

The freedman had never yet lived in such a 
happy and elevated frame of mind ; as he looked 
back on his past existence he often remembered 
with thankful joy the promise that the last should 
be first, and that the lowly should be exalted. If 
the dead had risen from their graves before his eyes 
it would scarcely have surprised him, for in these 
latter days he had seen wonder folloW on wonder. 
The utmost his soul had so fervently desired, for 
which he had prayed and longed, had found fulfill- 
ment in a way which far surpassed his hopes ; and 
through what blood and fear had the Lord led His 



348 A THORNY PATH. 

own, to let them reach the highest goal ! He knew 
from the lady Euryale that his desire to win Me- 
lissa's soul to the true faith had been granted, and 
that she craved to be baptized. This had not been 
confirmed by the girl herself, for, attacked by a 
violent fever, she had during nine days hovered be- 
tween life and death ; and since then Andreas had 
for more than a week been detained in the town ar- 
ranging affairs for Polybius. 

The task was now ended which he had set him- 
self to carry through. He could leave the city and 
see once more the young people he loved. He 
parted from Polybius and his sister at the garden 
gate, and led Heron and old Dido to a small cottage 
which his former master had given him to live in. 

The gem-cutter was not to be allowed to see his 
children till the leech should give leave, and the 
unfortunate man could not get over his surprise 
and emotion at finding in his new home not only a 
work-table, with tools, wax, and stones, but sev- 
eral cages full of birds, and among these feathered 
friends a starling. His faithful and now freed slave, 
Argutis, had, by Polybius's orders, supplied every- 
thing needful ; but the birds were a thought of the 
Christian girl Agatha. All this was a consolation in 
his grief, and when the gem-cutter was alone with 
old Dido he burst into sobs. The slave woman fol- 
lowed his example, but he stopped her with loud, 
harsh scolding. At first she was frightened; but 
then she exclaimed with delight from the very bot- 
tom of her faithful heart, " The gods be praised ! " 
and from the* moment when he could storm, she al- 
ways declared, Heron's recovery began. 

The sun was setting when Andreas made his way 
to Zeno's house — a long, white-washed building. 



A THORNY PATH. 



349 



The road led through a palm-grove on the Christian's 
estate. His anxiety to see the beloved sufferers 
urged him fofward so quickly that he presently 
overtook another man who was walking in the same 
direction in the cool of the evening. This was Ptole- 
maeus, the physician. 

He greeted Andreas with cheerful kindness, and 
the freedman knew what he meant when, without 
waiting to be asked, he said: 

"We are out of the wood now; the fever has 
passed away. The delirious fancies have left her, and 
since noon she has slept. When I quitted her an 
hour ago she was sleeping soundly and quietly. Till 
now the shaken soul has been living in a dream ; 
but now that the fever has passed away, she will 
soon be herself again. As yet she has recognized 
no one ; neither Agatha nor the lady Euryale ; not 
even Diodoros, whom I allowed to look at her yes- 
terday for a moment. We have taken her away 
from the large house in the garden, on account of 
the children, to the little villa opposite the place of 
worship. It is quiet there, and the air blows in on 
her through the open veranda. The Empress her- 
self could not wish for a better sick-room. And the 
care Agatha takes of her ! You are right to hasten. 
The last glimmer of sunshine is extinct, and divine 
service will soon begin. I am satisfied with Diodo- 
ros too ; youth is a soil on which the physician reaps 
easy laurels. What will it not heal and strengthen ! 
Only when the soul is so deeply shaken, as with Me- 
lissa and her brother, matters go more slowly, even 
with the young. However, as I said, we are past 
the crisis." 

" God be praised ! " said Andreas. " Such news 
makes me young again. I could run like a boy." 

They now entered the well-kept gardens which 



3 so 



A THORNY PATH. 



lay behind Zeno's house. • Noble clumps of tall old 
trees rose above the green grass plots and splendid 
shrubs. Round a dancing fountain were carefully 
kept beds of beautiful flowers. The garden ended 
at a palm-grove, which cast its shade on Zeno's lit- 
tle private place of worship — an open plot inclosed 
by tamarisk hedges like walls. The little villa in 
which Melissa lay was in a bower of verdure, and 
the veranda with the wide door through which the 
bed of the sufferer had been carried in, stood open 
in the cool evening to the garden, the palm-grove, 
and the place of worship with its garland, as it were, 
of fragile tamarisk boughs. 

Agatha was keeping watch by Melissa ; but as 
the last of the figures, great and small, who could 
be seen moving across the garden, all in the same 
direction, disappeared behind the tamarisk screen, 
the young Christian looked lovingly down at her 
friend's pale and all too delicate face, touched her 
forehead lightly with her lips, and whispered to the 
sleeper, as though she could hear her voice : 

"I am only going to pray for you and your 
brother." 

And she went out. 

A few moments later the brazen gong was heard 
— muffled out of regard for the sick — which an- 
nounced the hour of prayer to the little congrega- 
tion. It had sounded every evening without dis- 
turbing the sufferer, but to-night it roused her from 
her slumbers. 

She looked about her in bewilderment and tried 
to rise, but she was too weak to lift herself. Terror, 
blood, Diodoros wounded, Andreas, the ass on which 
she had ridden that night, were the images which 
first crowded on her awakening spirit in bewildering 
confusion. She had heard that piercing ring of 



A THORNY PATH. 



351 



smitten brass in the Serapeum. Was she still there ? 
Had she only dreamed of that night-ride with her 
wounded lover ? Perhaps she had lost consciousness 
in the mystic chambers, and the clang of the gong 
had roused her. 

And she shuddered. In her terror she dared not 
open her eyes for fear of seeing on all hands the 
hideous images on the walls and ceiling. Merciful 
gods! If her flight from the Serapeum and the 
rescue of Diodoros by Andreas had really been but 
a dream, then the door might open at any moment, 
and the Egyptian Zminis or his men might come in 
to drag her before that dreadful Caesar. 

She had half recovered consciousness several 
times, and as these thoughts had come over her, her 
returning lucidity had vanished and a fresh attack 
of fever had shaken her. But this time her head 
seemed clearer ; the cloud and humming had left 
her which had impeded the use of her ears and eyes. 
Her brain too had recovered its faculties. As soon 
as she tried to think, her restored intelligence told 
her that if she were indeed still in the Serapeum 
and the door should open, the lady Euryale -might 
come in to speak courage to her and take her in 
her motherly arms, and — 

And she suddenly recollected the promise which 
had come to her from the Scriptures of the Christians. 
It stood before her soul in perfect clearness that 
she had found a loving comforter in the Saviour ; she 
remembered how gladly she had declared to the 
lady Euryale that the fullness of time had now in- 
deed come to her, and that she had no more fervent 
wish than to become a fellow-believer with her kind 
friend — a baptized Christian. And all the while she 
felt as though light were spreading in her and 
around her, and the vision she had last seen when 



352 



A THORNY PATH. 



she lost consciousness rose again before her inward 
eye. Again she saw the Redeemer as He had 
stood before her at the end of her ride, stretching 
out His arms to her in the darkness, inviting her, 
who was weary and heavy laden, to be refreshed by 
him. A glow of thankfulness warmed .her heart, 
and she closed her eyes once more. 

But she did not sleep ; and while she lay fully 
conscious, with her hands on her bosom as it rose 
and fell regularly with her deep breathing, thinking 
of the loving Teacher, of the Christians, and of all 
the glorious promises she had read in the Sermon on 
the Mount, and which were addressed to her too, 
she could fancy that her head rested on Euryale's 
shoulder, while she saw the form of the Saviour 
robed in light and beckoning to her. 

Her whole frame was wrapped in pleasant lan- 
guor. Just so had she felt once before — she re- 
membered it well — and she remembered when it 
was. She had felt just as she did now after her 
lover had for the first time clasped her to his heart, 
when, as night came on, she had sat by his side on 
the marble bench, while the Christian procession 
passed. She had taken the chanting train for the 
wandering souls of the dead and — how strenge ! No 
— she was not mistaken. She heard at this moment 
the selfsame strain which they had then sung so 
joyfully, in spite of its solemn mode. She did know 
when it had begun, but again it filled her with a 
bitter-sweet sense of pity. Only it struck deeper 
now than before, for she knew now that it applied 
to all human beings, since they were all the children 
of the same kind Father, and her own brethren and 
sisters. 

But whence did the wonderful music proceed ? 
Was she — and a shock of alarm thrilled her at the 



A THORNY PATH. 



353 



thought — was she numbered with the dead ? Had 
her heart ceased to beat when the Saviour had 
taken her in His arms after her ride through blood 
and darkness, when all had grown dim to her senses ? 
Was she now in the abode of the blest ? 

Andreas had painted it as a glorious place; and 
yet she shuddered at the thought. But was not 
that foolish ? If she were really dead, all terror and 
pain were at an end. She would see her mother once 
more; and whatever might happen to those she 
loved, she might perhaps be suffered to linger near 
them, as she had done on earth, and hope with 
assurance to meet them again here, sooner or later. 

But no ! Her heart was beating still ; she could 
feel how strongly it throbbed. Then where was 
she? 

There certainly had not been any such coverlet 
as this on her bed in the Serapeum, and the room 
there was much lower. She looked about her and 
succeeded in turning on her side toward the evening 
breeze which blew in on her, so pure and soft and 
sweet. She raised her delicate emaciated hand to 
her head and found that her thick hair was gone. 
Then she must have cut it off to disguise herself. 

But where was she ? Whither had she fled ? 

It mattered not. The Serapeum was far away, 
and she need no longer fear Zminis and his spies. 

Now for the first time she raised her eyes 
thankfully to Heaven, and next she looked about 
her; and while she gazed and let her eyes feed 
themselves full, a faint cry of delight escaped her 
lips. Before her, in the silvery light of the bright 
disk of the young moon, lay a splendid blooming 
garden, and over the palms which towered above 
all else, in shadowy masses, in the distance the 
evening star was rising. Just in front, the moon- 

47 



354 



A THORNY PATH. 



light twinkled and flashed in the rising and falling 
drops of the fountain ; and as she lay, stirred to the 
depths of her soul by this silent splendor, thinking 
of kindly Selene moving on her peaceful path above, 
of Artemis hunting in the moonlight, of the nymphs 
of the waters, and the dryads just now perhaps 
stealing out of the great trees to dance with sportive 
fauns, the chant suddenly broke out again in solemn 
measure, and she heard, in deep manly voices, the 
beginning of the Psalm : 

"Give thanks unto the Lord and declare his 
name ; proclaim his wonders among the nations. 

" Sing of him and praise him ; tell of all his won- 
ders ; glorify his holy name ; their hearts rejoice 
that seek the Lord." 

Here the men ceased and the women began as 
though to confirm their praise of the most High, 
singing the ninetieth Psalm with enthusiastic joy : 

" O Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in 
all generations. 

" Before the mountains were brought forth, or, 
ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, 
even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. 

" For a thousand years in thy sight are but as 
yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in 
the night." 

Then the men's voices broke in again : 

" The heavens declare the glory of God and the 
firmament showeth his handiwork. 

" Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto 
night showeth knowledge." 

And the women in their turn took up the chfint, 
and from their grateful breasts rose clear and strong 
the Psalm of David : 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is with- 
in me, bless his holy name. 



A THORNY PATH. 



355 



" Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his 
benefits. 

" Who forgiveth all thine iniquities ; who healeth 
all thy diseases. 

" Who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; who 
crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mer- 



cies."* 



Melissa listened breathlessly to the singing, of 
which she could hear every word ; and how gladly 
would she have mingled her voice with theirs in 
thanksgiving to the kind Father in heaven who was 
hers as well as theirs! There lay His wondrous 
works before her, and her heart echoed the verse : 

"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; who 
crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mer- 
cies," as though it were addressed especially to her 
and sung for her by the choir of women. 

The gods of whom she had but just been thinking 
with pious remembrance appeared to her now as 
beautiful, merry, sportive children, as graceful creat- 
ures of her own kind, in comparison with the Al- 
mighty Creator and Ruler of the universe, whose 
works among the nations, whose holy name, whose 
wonders, greatness, and loving-kindness these songs 
of praise celebrated. The breath of His mouth dis- 
persed the whole world of gods to whom she had 
been wont to pray, as the autumn wind scatters 
the many-tinted leaves of faded trees. She felt as 
though He embraced the garden before her with 
mighty and yet loving arms, and with it the whole 
world. She had loved the Olympian gods ; but in 
this hour, for the first time, she felt true reverence 
for one God, and it made her proud to think that 
she might love this mighty Lord, this tender Father, 

* From the Bible ver&ion. 



356 A THORNY PATH. 

and know that she was beloved by Him. Her heart 
beat faster and faster, and she felt as though, under 
the protection of this God, she need never more 
fear any danger. 

As she looked out again at the palm-trees beyond 
the tamarisks, above whose plumy heads the even- 
ing star now rode in the azure blue of the night sky, 
the singing was taken up again after a pause ; she 
heard once more the angelic greeting which had be- 
fore struck her soul as so comforting and full of 
promise when she read it in the Gospel : 

" Glory to God on high, on earth peace, good-will 
toward men." 

That which she had then so fervently longed for 
had, she thought, come to pass. The peace, the rest 
for which she had yearned so miserably in the midst 
of terror and bloodshed, now filled her heart — all 
that surrounded her was so still and peaceful ! A 
wonderful sense of home came over her, and with it 
the conviction that here she would certainly find 
those for whom she was longing. 

Again she looked up to survey the scene, and she 
was now aware of a white figure coming toward 
her from the tamarisk hedge. This was Euryale. 
She had seen Agatha among the worshipers, and had 
quitted the congregation, fearing that the sick girl 
might wake and find no one near her who cared for 
her or loved her. She crossed the grass plot with 
a swift step. She had passed the fountain ; her head 
came into the moonlight, and Melissa could see the 
dear, kind face. With glad excitement she called 
her by name, and as the matron entered the veran- 
da she heard the convalescent's weak voice and 
hastened to her side. Lightly, as if joy had made 
her young again, she sank on her knees by the bed 
of the resuscitated girl to kiss her with motherly 



A THORNY PATH. 



357 



tenderness and press her head gently to her bosom. 
While Melissa asked a hundred questions the lady 
had to warn her to remain quiet, and at last to bid 
her to keep silence. 

First of all Melissa wanted to know where she 
was. Then her lips overflowed with thankfulness 
and joy, and declarations that she felt as she was 
sure the souls in bliss must feel, when Euryale had told 
her in subdued tones that her father was living, that 
Diodoros and her brother had found a refuge in the 
house of Zeno, and that Andreas, Polybius, and all 
dear to them were quite recovered after those evil 
days. The town had long been rid of Caesar, and 
Zeno had consented to allow his daughter Agatha 
to marry Alexander. 

In obedience to her motherly adviser, the conva- 
lescent remained quiet for a while ; but joy seemed 
to have doubled her strength, for she desired to see 
Agatha, Alexander, and Andreas, and — she colored, 
and a beseeching glance met Euryale's eyes — and 
Diodoros. 

But meanwhile the physician Ptolemaeus had 
come into the room, and he would allow no one to 
come near her this evening but Zeno's daughter. 
His grave eyes were dim with tears as, when taking 
leave, he whispered to the Lady Euryale : 

" All is well. Even her mind is saved." 

He was right. From day to day and from hour 
to hour her recovery progressed and her strength 
improved. And there was much for her to see and 
hear, which did her more good than medicine, even 
though she had been moved to fresh grief by the 
death of her brother and many friends. 

Like Melissa, her lover and Alexander had been 
led by thorny paths to the stars which shine on 
happy souls and shed their light in the hearts of 



358 A THORNY PATH. 

those to whom the higher truth is revealed. It was 
as Christians that Diodoros and Alexander both 
came to visit the convalescent. That which had 
won so many Alexandrians to the blessings of the 
new faith had attracted them too, and the certainty 
of finding their beloved among the Christians had 
been an added inducement to crave instruction from 
Zeno. And it had been given them in so zealous and 
captivating a manner that, in their impressionable 
hearts, the desire for learning had soon been turned 
to firm conviction and inspired ardor. 

Agatha was betrothed to Alexander. 

The scorn of his fellow-citizens, which had fallen 
on the innocent youth and which he had supposed 
would prevent his ever winning her love, had in 
fact secured it to him, for Agatha's father was 
very ready to trust his child to the man who had 
rescued her, whom she loved, and in whom he saw 
one of the lowly who should be exalted. 

Alexander was not told of Philip's death till his 
own wounds were healed; but he had meanwhile 
confided to Andreas that he had made up his mind 
to fly to a distant land that he might never again 
see Agatha, and thus not rob the brother on whom 
he had brought such disaster of the woman he 
loved. The f reedman had heard him with deep emo- 
tion, and within a few hours after Andreas had re- 
ported to Zeno the self-sacrificing youth's purpose, 
Zeno had gone to Alexander and greeted him as his 
son. 

Melissa found in Agatha the sister she had so 
long pined for; and how happy it made her to see 
her brother's eyes once more sparkle with gladness ! 
Alexander, even as a Christian and as Agatha's 
husband, remained an artist. 

The fortune accumulated by Andreas — the so- 



A THORNY PATH. 



359 



lidi with which he had formerly paid the scape- 
grace painter's debts included — was applied to the 
erection of a new and beautiful house of God on 
the spot where Heron's house had stood. Alexan- 
der decorated it with noble pictures, and as this 
church was soon too small to accommodate the 
rapidly increasing congregation, he painted the 
walls of yet another, with figures whose extreme 
beauty was famous throughout Christendom, and 
which were preserved and admired till gloomy 
zealots prohibited the arts in churches and de- 
stroyed their works. 

Melissa could not be safe in Alexandria. After 
being quietly married in the house of Polybius, she, 
with her young husband and Andreas, moved to 
Carthage, where an uncle of Diodoros dwelt. Love 
went them, and, with love, happiness. They were 
not long compelled to remain in exile; a few 
months after their marriage news was brought to 
Carthage that Caesar had been murdered by the 
centurion Martialis, prompted by the tribunes 
Apollinaris and Nemesianus Aurelius. Immediately 
on this, Macrinus, the praetorian prefect, was pro- 
claimed emperor by the troops. 

The ambitious man's sovereignty lasted less 
than a year ; still, the prophecy of Serapion was 
fulfilled. It cost the Magian his life indeed; for 
a letter written by him to the prefect, in which he 
reminded him of what he had foretold, fell into the 
hands of Caracalla's mother, who opened the letters 
addressed to her ill-fated son at Antioch, where she 
was then residing. The warning it contained did 
not arrive, however, till after Caesar's death, and be- 
fore the new sovereign could effectually protect 
the soothsayer. As soon as Macrinus had mounted 
the throne the persecution of those who had roused 



360 A THORNY PATH. 

the ire of the unhappy Caracalla was at an end. 
Diodoros and Melissa, Heron and Polybius, could 
mingle once more with their fellow-citizens secure 
from all pursuit. 

Diodoros and other friends took care that the 
suspicion of treachery which had been cast on He- 
ron's household should be abundantly disproved. 
Nay, the death of Philip, and Melissa's and Alex- 
ander's evil fortunes, placed them in the ranks of 
the foremost foes of tyranny. 

Within ten months of his accession Macrinus 
was overthrown, after his defeat at Immae, where, 
though the praetorians still fought for him bravely, 
he took ignominious flight ; Julia Domna's grand- 
nephew was then proclaimed Caesar by the troops, 
under the name of Heliogabalus, and the young 
emperor of fourteen had a statue and a cenotaph 
erected at Alexandria to Caracalla, whose son he 
was falsely reputed to be. These two works of art 
suffered severely at the hands of those on whom the 
hated and luckless emperor had inflicted such fear- 
ful evils. Still, on certain memorial days they were 
decked with beautiful flowers ; and when the new 
prefect, by order of Caracalla's mother, made in- 
quiry as to who it was that laid them there, he was 
informed that they came from the finest garden in 
Alexandria, and that it was Melissa, the wife of 
the owner, who offered them. This comforted the 
heart of Julia Domna, and she would have blessed 
the donor still more warmly if she could have 
known that Melissa included the name of her crazed 
son in her prayers to her dying day. 

Old Heron, who had settled on the estate of 
Diodoros and lived there among his birds, less surly 
than of old, still produced his miniature works of 
art; he would shake his head over those strange 



A THORNY PATH. 361 

offerings, and once when he found himself alone 
with old Dido, now a freed-woman, he said, irritably : 

" If that little fool had done as I told her she 
would be empress now, and as good as Julia Domna. 
But all has turned out well — only that Argutis, 
whom every one treats as if our old Macedonian 
blood ran in his veins, was sent yesterday by Me- 
lissa with finer flowers for Caracalla's cenotaph than 
for her own mother's tomb — May her new-fangled 
god forgive her ! There is some Christian nonsense 
at the bottom of it, no doubt. I stick to the old 
gods whom my Olympias served, and she always 
did the best in everything." 

Old Polybius, too, remained a heathen ; but he 
allowed the children to please themselves. He and 
Heron saw their grandchildren brought up as 
Christians without a remonstrance, for they both 
understood that Christianity was the faith of the 
future. 

Andreas to his latest day was ever the faithful 
adviser of old and young alike. In the sunshine of 
love which smiled upon him his austere zeal turned 
to considerate tenderness. When at last he lay on 
his death-bed, and shortly before the end, Melissa 
asked him what was his favorite verse of the Script- 
ures, he replied firmly and decidedly : 

" Now the fullness of time is come." 

"So be it," replied Melissa with tears in her 
eyes. He smiled and nodded, signed to Diodoros 
to draw off his signet ring — the only thing his 
father had saved from the days of his wealth and 
freedom — and desired Melissa to keep it for his 
sake. Deeply moved, she put it on her finger ; but 
Andreas pointed to the motto, and said with failing 
utterance : 

" That is your road — and mine — my father's 



362 A THORNY PATH. 

motto : Per aspera ad astra. It has guided me to my 
goal, and you — all of you. But the words are in 
Latin ; you understand them ? By rough ways to 
the stars — Nay, what they say to me is : Upward, 
under the burden of the cross, to bliss here and 
hereafter — And you too," he added, looking in 
his darling's face. " You too, both of you ; I know 
it." 

He sighed deeply, and, laying his hand on Me- 
lissa's head as she knelt by his bed, he closed his 
faithful eyes in the supporting arms of Diodoros. 



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